Description of City
The city named Waco is located in McLennan County, Texas, and is located along the banks of the river Brazos. The city has an approximate population of 140000 residents as of the census conducted in 2020. Waco is also the Central Texas hub for culture education and commerce, and it is also well-known for having a vibrant community, prominent educational institutions like Baylor University, and historical landmarks (Britannica, 2023). The city is unfortunately famous for one of the worst massacres in history, The Waco Siege, which will be addressed later in this paper as it directly relates to issues of public safety.
The local government structure at Waco comprises a form of government structure that functions under the directive of the council manager. The city is headed by a city council made up of the mayor and five other council members, where the mayor is elected, and the council members come from the various districts within the city, acting in a representative capacity (City of Waco, 2023). This government is then responsible for setting up policies making decisions, and passing ordinances. Their choices and influences must be relevant to the direction of the city. Finally, the day-to-day administration is given to an appointee of the city council, the city manager.
City-Specific Contextual Information
Waco’s history under public safety consideration comprises various incidents mainly involving interactions between the law enforcement community and the general public, as well as some terrorist attacks. The spotlight for an event in the city’s history that can be considered when studying public safety is the Waco Siege that took place in 1993 in the Branch Davidian compound, which brought national and international attention to the city (History.com Editors, 2017). The incident, which started as a response to concerns about illegal activity in a certain compound housing numbers of a religious group, drastically escalated to a condom between law enforcement and the group, which resulted in mass loss of lives and properties. The incident is an important public safety consideration, considering that members who were involved in the incident, the members of the religious group, and the law enforcement officers required a safe community. The escalation of the conflict was also an indicator of important considerations in law enforcement, especially decision-making.
The incident described above is relevant because it signified issues in local governance, especially considering how long the event took and the criticism that the authorities received regarding how they handled the situation. Local government structures like the city council are not directly implicated in this incident but are reliable for public safety discussions and how they respond to general public concerns in years to follow. Considering that the incident resulted in retaliation of a terrorist attack one year later where a Bureau office was bombed and more lives lost, it is ideal for studying the public safety in relationships in the city and the changes that the city has made since then to assure public safety. The main areas through which the local government has participated in enhancing public safety include addressing the community needs and creating awareness of cultural and religious understanding, which was lacking during this incident.
City’s Changes in Public Safety
Waco City’s efforts in pursuit of public safety changes include mainly undertaking community policing through which the city of police department uses positive relationships between law enforcement and the community to improve public safety. From the experiences in the past, there was a lacking trust and a breakdown of communication between law enforcement and the community; therefore, parts of the initiative that is focused on community policing to improve relations and subsequently influence public safety. The approach mainly includes officer engagement with residents and working with them and other community organizations to understand public safety concerns as well as come up with problem-solving strategies that are ideal for those needs.
Another example of the changes experienced in the city includes an approach to violence prevention and intervention which includes mainly programs that target the youth. Based on evidence and an understanding of crime rates relating to smaller-scale of crimes, the city actively participates in programs that take on a proactive approach to prevent crime before it occurs. The initiatives established are used to provide education and awareness to at-risk individuals and resources that support other community organizations to prevent youth deviance. The local government and the law enforcement community also emphasize the importance of early interventions and working with the community to reduce crime rates and violence within the city.
In general, initiatives that the city has undertaken to improve public safety are based on collaborations with non-profit and faith-based groups directly linked to individuals to enhance security. Community policing, for example, took place between the police department and the immediate community. Therefore, it was a widespread initiative to collaborate with members of the community in public safety efforts. Interrelated approaches are integral for efforts to sensitize communities about the importance of being aware of the rule of law enforcement and their role in making policing more effective by being responsible members of the community. Community involvement would not only directly consider the needs of the inhabitants of the city but also actively involve them in the decision-making process of law enforcement to give them a perspective into the work that I do to ensure public safety.
The second change is mainly located in the parts of the city with the highest propensity for crime, considering that it is a violence prevention and intervention strategy. According to Engel et al. (2020), early Intervention systems are some of the highly lost interventions that must be guided by evidence-based policing. With the contribution of crime analysts and operations such as mapping, the city has been able to adequately apply this change to the areas that are mostly in dire need of intervention. This approach has also been ideal to ensure that the allocation of resources is done to optimize effect and generally reduce crime rates or deter crime across the city. With issues such as a high poverty rate and the community risk factors associated with the city, violence prevention and intervention continue to be the best way to address the potential of Law breaking even with minimal criminal activity at the moment.
The main inspiration for public safety changes was the desire to address historical incidents and challenges that affected public safety. After the Branch Davidian siege, the city recognized the importance of having positive relationships with the community and being proactive in public safety. Looking back, both of these efforts could have directly impacted the outcome of the siege. The incident has become an example in many other public safety approaches as a way to reduce the rapid escalation of hostage situations. Some of the criticism was regarding the law enforcement approach and handling of the situation as well as the willingness of the religious group to collaborate with law enforcement.
On the change regarding violence prevention and intervention strategies, the impetus to explore public safety changes through a proactive approach and community corporation is inspired by the potential for crime as linked to issues such as high poverty rates from research. Waco is a relatively small city, and scores of residents are linked to the bustling life supported by higher institutions. For this reason, some of the gaps that are affected or additionally considered in law enforcement response include crises due to mental health that are gradually growing to be an area of concern (Watson et al., 2021). This indicates that violence prevention also depends on adequate resources and equipping law enforcement officers to understand the needs of the city and utilize research to guide them on sustainable prevention of crime strategies and response.
The impacts of the changes on violence prevention and intervention in the city are mainly associated with using targeted intervention programs. Such programs thrive in the existence of available information regarding the root causes of crime and the best applicable strategies to reduce recidivism and deter deviance. The targeted programs are heavily dependent on the time in which they are applied, which categorizes them as early Intervention strategies that are best applicable if based on evidence and if utilizing good time to prevent criminal activity and violence. Violence prevention and intervention have indicated promising results, especially in reducing violence and crime related to the youth and providing the necessary support for at-risk individuals, for example, those affected by poverty.
Additionally, Waco had also experienced impacts such as from its changes on community policing which mainly built the trust between the members of the community and law enforcement which subsequently improves the probability of corporation. The effects of community policing are also observed in prevention and intervention efforts considering that crime prevention is possible through community disclosure on areas of concern and subsequent rapid response from law enforcement. Community policing is also working for the benefit of society to create a sense of togetherness and commitment in fostering a safe environment with or without the involvement of law enforcement officers. The efforts in the city continued to emphasize the importance of community involvement in crime deterrence and prevention as it creates a sense of responsibility and dedication to sustainable public safety. Furthermore, both efforts of violence prevention and community policing are a step towards collaborative public safety reforms.
My thoughts regarding the changes that Waco City in Texas has made to public safety are fast, that the initiatives are all-rounded and considerate of the needs of the city, including collaboration prevention of violence and community policing. These approaches are considerate and proactive, considering that not only do they involve community members but are also intended to provide a sustainable approach to current and future public safety issues. I see these reforms as a deviation from the traditional approach used by law enforcement to react to crime. The approach may also open up the department to be more actively engaged and in touch with the community that it serves.
From the context of the changes within Waco City, I could see an element of influence from historical events, especially the siege for which the city is still known. Taking on an approach that is centered on the community and on preventing future crime is not a common approach that many communities make, and this seems to be the city’s approach to preventing catastrophic events and creating a harmonious public relationship. My personal thoughts on the approach to public safety are that it does not solely rely on the efforts of law enforcement but also that the community works together to improve the environment for all involved stakeholders.
The lessons from the law and society framework apply to this public safety perspective on Waco, especially in understanding how the initiatives are inclined to community-oriented policing, which mostly focuses on establishing trust and partnership. This framework mainly notes that a lawful society and a publicly safer environment are highly dependent on good relationships between law enforcement and the community they serve. The approach by Waco City focused on understanding root causes and problem-solving, which is a proactive approach to investing in the overall well-being of the residents. Subsequently, law enforcement in the city could be more efficient. The changes city has decided to meet our promises, but in my opinion, it may take a lot more effort to understand the impact and long-term analysis to fully address the public safety challenges. The safety initiatives are commendable and require effort from all the stakeholders to be successful.
Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2023, June 21). Waco. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/Waco
Brockman, D. R. (2023, January 24). “A Legacy of Rage” in Waco. The Texas Observer. https://www.texasobserver.org/jeff-guinn-waco-david-koresh-book/
City of Waco. (2023). City Council. Www.waco-Texas.com. https://www.waco-texas.com/Government/City-Council
Engel, R. S., McManus, H. D., & Isaza, G. T. (2020). Moving beyond “Best Practice”: Experiences in Police Reform and a Call for Evidence to Reduce Officer-Involved Shootings. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 687(1), 146–165. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002716219889328
History.com Editors. (2017). Waco Siege. In HISTORY.com. https://www.history.com/topics/1990s/waco-siege
Watson, A. C., Pope, L. G., & Compton, M. T. (2021). Police Reform From the Perspective of Mental Health Services and Professionals: Our Role in Social Change. Psychiatric Services, 72(9), appi.ps.2020005. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ps.202000572