Eden Prairie police officers are taking a neighborly approach to build relationships with the community.
A recently launched police program called Neighborhood Police Officers (NPO) aims to help officers and residents get to know each other better, hopefully making it easier to work together and solve neighborhood issues.
“It’s trust with the community; rapport with the community,” said Police Lt. Jess Irmiter, explaining the program’s objective. “Humanizing police officers. Getting out and actually listening to what the neighbors have to say. One-on-one is the best way to hear what a neighborhood issue is.”
The program had been in the works for a while as a possible way to bolster community outreach. NPO falls under the patrol unit, which Irmiter oversees.
“This was an idea mentioned by officers and our admin staff,” Irmiter said. “We actually had this proposed for 2020 but COVID hit us, and we had to pull it all back. When COVID turned down a bit, we decided it was time to fire this back up and let our officers do their thing.”
How it works
Through the program, officers are assigned to specific neighborhoods throughout the city.
Within their assigned neighborhood, the officer will serve as primary contacts for community groups, neighborhood associations, businesses and residents. The goal is to have the NPOs involved in as many activities in their assigned neighborhoods as possible.
“That is the general design,” Irmiter said. “To plug the officers into a neighborhood so they get to know the neighborhood and the neighborhood issues better.”
Eden Prairie officers work in zones. Within each zone are the neighborhood beats.
“All the neighbors there are potentially who (the officer) gets to work with,” Irmiter explained. “If there is a bunch of tamper of autos in the area, for instance, our investigations unit would say, ‘Hey, Zone 1 beat officers, go up there and help solve the problem. Talk to the community. Do some safety talks with them. Show them how to lock their doors, use lights.'”
The program began just a couple of weeks ago, meaning the metrics on how it’s working so far are scant.
“I can tell you what its intent is, but we’re still growing it as it develops,” Irmiter said.
Soon after the program’s public unveiling via the police blog, some residents were initially confused about how to use it. He stressed that questions or concerns about traffic or parking would still funnel through the department’s traditional programs.
Indeed, the NPO program does not take the place of emergency response, filing a police report or other routine calls for service. Due to the rotating schedule of officers, it could take up to three days for a response.
“For instance, if there is a traffic complaint at Pioneer Trail and Flying Cloud Drive, it will still go through our traffic unit,” he said. But, he added, that unit will also “plug in with the NPO” if it’s determined to be more of a neighborhood than a general parking problem.
“If you are unsure if your question or issue is an NPO, go ahead and call us,” Irmiter said. “Call our non-emergency line (952-949-6200) and we’ll answer the question and direct you to the right unit. If it is an emergency, the NPO program is not a spot for an in-progress emergency. We still want you to use 911.”
People can also email NPO@edenprairie.org for help with a neighborhood issue or request an NP0 to attend a block party or homeowners association meeting.