Foster works hard to improve relations with local citizens
Grass Valley Police Chief John Foster has a lot to be proud of. When he took over the job four one-half years ago, he had to overcome a perception that the GVPD was not ‘user friendly’. But the overall satisfaction has gone way up now. In the 2002 Citizen’s Attitude Survey, 94% of the respondents rated police services as excellent or good, up from 79.5% the year before.
“We put out the survey in February to get feedback, so we can prioritize our programs and services to work on the problems that the community wants addressed,” Foster said.
The Community Oriented Policing Program (COPP) is another exciting program underway. All the neighborhoods in Grass Valley have been identified and color-coded on a map. Then officers are assigned to each neighborhood. It becomes ‘their neighborhood’, for the officer and for the citizens, he becomes ‘their cop’.
“A block officer can understand the dynamics of the neighborhood and the people in it and better resolve the long-term problems”, Foster said.
In this program, officers are responsible for going door to door to contact all the residents and business people in their area. They walk foot patrols, cruise their neighborhoods, return all phone calls within 24 hours and contact crime victims in their assigned areas to make sure their concerns have been addressed.
“Our goal is to build a healthy rapport between the public and the police department, kind of an old fashioned ‘cop on the beat’ type of thing,” Foster said.
Foster oversees 18 police officers, four sergeants and two captains, plus volunteers from his office in downtown Grass Valley. Photos of his wife and three sons decorate the neat office, along with bears in police uniforms and antique toy police cars.
More good news during the past year, a grant, from the NUHS district has a police officer on campus full-time at Sierra Foothill Continuation High School. This person teaches, is a mentor in after school programs, has a police academy class and is helping the students to produce a show on FCAT where they are interviewing police officers. The program started in September.
Last year at this time, the neighborhood near the school was up in arms about the campus, complaining about drugs, fighting and cars speeding. Now that the campus is closed and the officer is there, things have settled down considerably.
“One of the best measures of our success with this program is that attendance is up. More kids are going to school, attending classes, because they feel safe now,” Foster said.
“Here’s an example of the school, community and police in partnership, collaborating to make it a great place to work and live,” he said.
Challenges he sees for the upcoming year include financial
struggles and uncertainty with the state budget. “We’ll have to tighten our belts”, he said.
Which brought up the topic of the Nevada County Police and Fire Protection Council. “We’re grateful for the citizen support and financial support they have given us. They contributed $20,000 of the $30,000 needed to upgrade and refurbish our local training facility, ‘RAT’ (Rural Assault Trail),” he said.
Thanks to the Council’s generous financial contribution and local contractors and construction supply companies giving their time and material, ‘RAT’ is now back among the top law enforcement training facilities in Northern California.
Other challenges include traffic safety, a major emphasis in the city of Grass Valley.
“We’re a safe community. We don’t have a lot of violent crime, mostly family issues, such as alcohol, drugs, domestic and elder abuse, and no gangs. A while back, we had a series of auto thefts, mostly because people were leaving their cars unlocked with the keys in them, but now that has dropped,” Foster said.
“I have a great job. But, I’m only as successful as I allow my staff to be successful, give them the tools and resources to be successful. I’m fortunate that they are upbeat, dedicated and loyal. We’re professional and serious, but I like to have fun too,” Foster said.
Beyond his responsibilities as Police Chief, Foster gives his time and energy to the community by serving on the executive committee of the Board of the Grass Valley Nevada County Chamber of Commerce, as a member of Grass Valley Rotary and as president of the Central Sierra Police Chiefs’ Association.
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