Home General Shelton Haynes on Building an Exceptional Public Safety Department

Shelton Haynes on Building an Exceptional Public Safety Department

by Olufisayo
Shelton Haynes

For a small island in the East River, Roosevelt Island has an exceptional safety department, according to Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation CEO Shelton Haynes, with a community that is closer to the feel of a small town with a population of 12,000 in the middle of the greater metropolis of New York City.

Retaining this feeling of community while still watching out for influences from the city at large can be a challenge. Still, it’s one that Haynes recognizes as coming directly from the Public Safety Department, which strikes a careful balance between care and caution on the island.

Public Saftey Being Put First

In a world where we are constantly bombarded by images of officers representing public safety undertaking horrific actions, Roosevelt Island paints a completely different picture, with officers of the Public Safety Department helping out at community events.

Popcorn and other treats are handed out to residents that they recognize because they work with the public on a daily basis. This has made a huge impact on how the officers perform on the job. “Our PSD officers come to all the community events,” stated Shelton Haynes in a recent interview. “They’re not just sitting [at their] posts; they engage with – and show interest in the community.”

Nestled in the East River between Manhattan and Queens, the island has its own feel that is different than the rest of the city. Featuring 50 peace officers, with 10 of those officers acting in leadership while the remainder patrol the island, this creates a strong bond between the officers and the community, a bond that is being lost in many urban areas.

“Our public safety officers know almost all of our residents,” Shelton Haynes mentions. “They’re speaking with them. They’re out in the elements. They ride the buses. They’re by all of our transportation hubs. They are engaged with store owners and residents. That deters crime.”

Shelton Haynes Making Saftey A Priority

Having taken a philosophy of community policing to heart, providing a lighter touch from the Department to the rest of the community, officers serve as first responders during emergencies while still working in liaison with the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies.

With the recent tragedies that have led to discord between police and the public, community-first approaches provide ways for the department to build trust, partnerships within the community, and problem-solving approaches that often would fall outside of normal police work. Rather than hard-headed approaches of traditional policework, community-first policing uses non-accusatory interactions to keep situations from heating up. “Roosevelt Island is one of the safest places in New York City, which is attributed to our Public Safety Department,” Shelton Haynes stated recently.

RIOC Puts Community First

This approach has allowed Roosevelt Island to maintain its sense of community, even as the larger city around the island is changing on a daily basis. Though it would take a delicate touch to retain a small-town atmosphere in a growing area, Shelton Haynes manages it masterfully.

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