Police advisory board in relaunch mode

The Jewish Citizen Advisory Board may have been the first such advisory board launched by the Phoenix Police Department, “but it kind of petered out,” says Joe Miller, executive director of Temple Chai and current chairman of the Jewish community’s police advisory board. So an effort to relaunch the board started about a year and a half ago, and Miller is seeking to raise awareness of the board and to encourage more local Jewish leaders to take part.

So is Detective Rick Tamburo, the department’s liaison to the Jewish community: “We’re tying to rejuvenate [the board] and get a nice open partnership with the community. We want to have everything in place in case, God forbid, we need to interact with each other.”

The Jewish board is one of nine such panels organized to keep in touch with distinct minority communities, including the African American, Arab, Asian, Hispanic, LGBT, Muslim, Native American and Sikh communities.

The police website says the advisory boards are meant to generate unity between the respective communities and the police, create a climate of trust between the communities and police, provide a forum where the department can listen aggressively to community concerns and create win-win solutions to social problems, and improve the quality of life to all members of our community.

A Nov. 5 gathering at Temple Chai drew a group of about 20, including representatives of the Jewish community, three assistant police chiefs and and representatives such as Tamburo and Gerald Richard, who directs community relations for the department.

“All the chiefs got up and spoke, about 35 to 45 minutes, and there was a small presentation by our bias crimes sergeant on the school resource program and school safety,” Tamburo says.

More importantly, says Miller, such meetings build bonds between community leaders and the police: “When the time comes and you need the police, you already know each other, you’ve got them on your speed dial and that’s nothing but good.”

Miller recalls and appreciates the help that the department provided when Temple Chai faced what he calls “our lovely visit” from a confrontational church some time ago, which is clearly part of the reason he’s serving on the board.

The advisory panel helps the police to understand Jewish concerns and to know, for instance, when large crowds may gather, such as during the funerals of prominent community members and the High Holidays.

“When the High Holidays were going, I sent a memo departmentwide that said this time of year this is what’s going on,” Tamburo says. “I know the areas that have a lot of synagogues and we do special watches on these.”

The meetings feature presentations from various divisions of the department. While the Nov. 5 meeting’s presentation was on school safety, the next meeting is expected to include a presentation from the bias crimes unit.

Miller mentions a previous eye-opening presentation from a vice squad officer “who deals daily with prostitution and child sex trafficking.”

“It was a pretty powerful presentation,” he says, and it’s spurring some action. The temple’s tzedakah and social action group is engaged in trying to help get child victims off the street. Thus, being involved with the board helps not only helps the community protect itself but also helps with the pursuit of tikkun olam, he says.

So Miller is putting out the call to the leadership of synagogues and Jewish communal agencies alike to contact him (602-971-1234) to join the panel. “Having that relationship with law enforcement is good business.”


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