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White House briefing leaves Coeur d’Alene police chief assured of efforts

Coeur d’Alene police Chief Lee White went to the White House on Wednesday for a briefing on community-oriented policing, and left confident his department already is doing a lot of what federal officials recommend.

White and other police chiefs were invited to the 21st Century Policing briefing hosted by the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs. Parts of the presentation touched on ways to build trust with residents, work with neighborhoods on crime reduction and develop clear policies for use of force and handling mass demonstrations.

“I think what this group is looking for is buy-in from police chiefs on their initiatives, and it’s not really hard to do, because frankly a lot of this is things we’re already doing,” White said in a phone interview after the four-hour briefing.

Since he was hired almost two years ago, White has assigned officers to focus on crime trends and neighborhoods with frequent calls for service. He also has pushed for greater cooperation with community groups, emphasized warnings over issuing of citations and made it easier to obtain police records.

Last year, the Coeur d’Alene Police Department was awarded a Community Oriented Policing Services grant for $375,000 over three years. The money enabled the city to hire three police officers for a Community Action Team tasked with building relationships within neighborhoods and making connections with business owners.

The team already has shut down around 12 drug houses identified through neighborhood tips, the police department said.

White said he sees many police departments embracing similar approaches.

“They are things that I think a lot of the police chiefs in Idaho, and especially on the West Coast, have really been on the forefront of – making sure that we’re responsive to the community that we serve and that we’re doing our best to be transparent,” he said. “And to make sure we’re truly guardians, we’re not an occupying force. We’re community members who happen to wear a uniform.”

After a rash of police shootings in the U.S. in 2014 exposed rifts in the relationships between local police and the communities they serve, President Barack Obama signed an executive order establishing the Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The task force was charged with identifying best practices and recommending how police can promote effective crime reduction and build public trust.

White also went to Washington, D.C., to share his concern about the ability of felony crime suspects to board commercial flights. The suspect in the March shooting of Coeur d’Alene church pastor Tim Remington was able to fly from Boise to Washington, D.C., after a warrant had been issued for his arrest, according to investigators in the case.

White said he wants to see better sharing of crime database information with the Transportation Security Administration to prevent suspects with felony warrants from using air travel to escape. He spoke about that Wednesday with the White House associate director of intergovernmental affairs.

“I’m not sure how far it will go, frankly, but at least I can say I tried,” White said.

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