WACO, Texas — The Waco City Council proposed adding $1 million to the Waco Police Department's budget to bring back a community policing initiative in five Waco neighborhoods.
As part of the initiative, Waco PD would hire seven new officers to handle smaller, non-emergency issues for local businesses and communicate with community leaders. Two officers would hold supervisory roles, while the remaining five would regularly interact with people in neighborhoods.
"The overall function is going to be to build relationships within these communities, to improve the quality of life for residents inside the communities and for the local businesses," Waco PD spokesperson Garen Bynum said.
According to Interim Police Chief Frank Gentsch, the initiative would allow officers to connect to their communities more than typical beat officers. While Interim Chief Gentsch says he believes officers have done a good job building relationships with members of the community, he thinks this initiative will help the department solve more of their issues.
"They have a little bit more time to spend on that versus an officer on a beat that's having to answer call-to-call and doesn't have time to say, "Hey, I need to go out of service for an hour to work on this problem,"" Interim Chief Gentsch explained.
This would not be the first time Waco has implemented a community policing initiative. The City formed a similar team of officers in the 1990s, but that group's role changed over the next 20 years.
The City plans to review the previous program to determine best practices.
"We just know that it worked for us in the past, that the community liked it and that frankly the officers really liked it," Officer Bynum said.
The program would aim to help small business owners like Carla Dotson. Dotson opened a food truck in East Waco in 2017.
In the past year, she says someone stole two TVs from her business.
"We've had other people that have had stuff stolen," Dotson said. "But I didn't know that until they came down and said, "Hey, have you seen this guy?""
Dotson said multiple officers stop to eat at her food truck, but she wishes there was more open communication.
"When they get those calls," Dotson said. "They know they have a better relationship with those businesses, especially when we're new and they don't know that we're here."
The city council will hold a public hearing on the budget September 1 with the new budget expected to go into effect in October.