Three cities that make good relations a priority

Atlanta Federal and private civil-rights experts interviewed by the Monitor gave Atlanta high marks for its police-community relations. They credit:

* A clear message from the city's top officials that police misconduct will not be tolerated. ''I think the citizens here have faith in the police,'' Atlanta Police Chief Morris Redding says.

When the police commissioner visits ''the homes of little old ladies, there's a message'' that police officers are expected to show similar concern and behave properly, Commissioner Charles Napper says.

* A feeling on the part of the public that their grievances about the police will be heard and acted upon.

* The gun-use rule for Atlanta police: An officer may shoot only if the officer's or someone else's life is in danger.

* Many community meetings between police and citizens.

Among other things, says Chief Redding, the police department has signed agreements with various neighborhoods promising specific police actions in return for certain citizen actions. For example, police may step up patrols in an area where people have noticed a lot of crime if the neighborhood agrees to supply more information on what suspicious activities they see. Santa Anna, Calif.

Winner of several national and state awards, the city's police department was the target of hostility from blacks in the 1960s and Hispanics in the 1970s, Deputy Chief Eugene Hansen says.

Today, Mr. Hansen says:

* A number of miniprecincts with a ''homey'' atmosphere have been opened, staffed by Spanish-speakers where needed. In these stations citizens can air grievances as well as get a variety of community services.

* Elderly people who have been victims of crime are provided a police escort to courts to testify. They are counseled and comforted after a crime and given temporary financial aid if they have been robbed.

* Uniformed civilian police employees (at two-thirds the pay of officers) do much of the investigative work for such crimes as burglaries.

* Officers are assigned a beat for two years, a longer-than-usual stint, to give them time to get to know the people better. Flint, Mich.

After the shooting of a youth by a Flint police officer in 1980, the city began reviewing its gun rule. It has since modified the rule to prevent the shooting of a fleeing felon except under life-threatening circumstances.

The city began training its officers on when to fire - and when not to fire - with the help of a program designed by the Flint-based company September & Associates East. Officers are shown changeable sequences of events on slides and film, and are asked to decide whether or not they should use a gun. The program was examined by Miami police officials after the riot there in late December.

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