The City of Laurel and the Laurel Police Department served as host on July 27 to a delegation from Iraq touring the United States to learn about community policing. The event was part of the U.S. State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program.

The delegation’s objective during its three-week visit to the United States was to explore community policing and examine the critical role of transparency and accountability in law enforcement.

“Police departments function better when officers interact with people every day,” Mayor Craig Moe told the group. “That trust has to be there.”
Laurel Police Chief Richard McLaughlin told the visitors that community policing is paramount to successful resolutions of many community issues. “We work very had to be transparent,” he said. “It’s very important that those relationships are maintained.

The delegation members, many from Iraq’s Ministry of the Interior, were interested in learning about resources; cooperation between federal, state and local agencies; and how to get officers to buy into community policing. In the words of Cpl. Joseph Johnson, the unofficial ambassador of Laurel’s community policing effort, “Officers have to be approachable. That’s why I like patrolling on a bike or Segway, rather than encased in a steel patrol car. My message, especially to the youngsters who flag me down to talk, is there’s more to being a police officer than just arresting people.”

City Councilman Fred Smalls helped facilitate the visit, the fifth such event Laurel has hosted in the past four years. Delegations from Estonia, Egypt, Colombia and Palestine have also visited Laurel as part of the program.

See photo in All Around Town on page 35.