Congratulations to Mary Jo Kuzmick on her recent retirement. Mary Jo served with Gilbert Parks and Recreation before joining our crime prevention team at Gilbert PD. She was an integral part of many many programs, not the least of which was Special Olympics and the Gilbert Feeding Families campaign. She is known as a compassionate and caring person, an avid animal lover, and someone who enjoys traveling. I wish her luck in her future endeavors and a happy retirement. Officer Jeff Barnett also retired this month. Jeff was a dedicated and professional officer who was recognized for bravery and service to others on several occasions; Jeff will be missed. Next up is Louise Phillips, who will retire this month following 30 years of service with the Gilbert Police Department. This will be the last Letter of the Law to be published by her. Louise has had a distinguished career with the Gilbert Police Department, and is known for her professionalism and commitment to our community and our department. I wish Louise well in her future endeavors and a well-deserved happy retirement. Congratulations to Sergeant Darrell Krueger who was promoted to sergeant on July 6. Darrell has assumed his duties as a patrol sergeant on Team 17.
On July 1, we kicked off our traffic safety campaign, Speed Down, Eyes Up, Drive Safely. We are implementing this awareness campaign in an effort to reduce serious collisions and increase safety on the roadways in our town. While the overall rate of collisions is low compared to similar communities, we have seen a significant increase in the number of fatal and serious injury collisions occurring on town roadways. It is extremely difficult to predict where these types of collisions will occur and therefore difficult to implement directed enforcement in a particular area. We can, however, work in partnership with the community to influence driving behavior throughout the town via public education/information and increased enforcement.
Through public information and education component of Speed Down, Eyes Up, Drive Safely, is focused on getting the word out about the increasing number of serious collisions and their primary cause. Namely speed, distracted driving, impairment, and failure to use safety restraints.
Proactive policing is preventive policing. This is the underlying philosophy behind the enforcement component of the Speed Down, Eyes Up, Drive Safely campaign. Officers are encouraged to increase their traffic contacts in their assigned beats by 20%. While we are emphasizing an increase in driver contacts, we are not emphasizing an increase in the number citations that are issued. While citations have their place when there is a serious violation, warnings can be a very effective tool to educate and encourage compliance to traffic laws.
Officers are also asked to focus on the types of violations that are the leading factors in serious collisions. While distracted driving in and of itself is not violation, there are violations that exist that are indicative of distracted driving including failure to drive in one lane and driving in bike lanes; these are violations that also may indicate impaired driving. Many drivers who are driving in bike lanes or are drifting out of their lanes have no idea they are doing so because they are distracted. Often, simply drawing a person’s attention to their behavior can act as a deterrent.
As we have seen in our first two DDACTS (Data Driven Approach to Crime and Traffic Safety) phases, we can reduce calls for service and reduce focus crimes by increasing contacts. Our current DDACTS plan is showing similar results. Based on an analysis of collision and calls for service data, we are expanding the current DDACTS plan to a second zone in the area of the San Tan corridor between Williams Field and Val Vista. Over the past two months, Patrol has increased its traffic enforcement activities in this area. As a result, we have seen an increase in proactive stops and a corresponding decrease in collisions and focus crimes. While we are making more contacts, we have not seen a corresponding increase in citizen complaints. I attribute this to our public education efforts, the use of discretion by our officers, and by officers treating people with dignity and respect during their contacts. I recently received a commendation for an officer who had stopped a distracted driver. The driver thanked the officer for being helpful, polite, and professional during the stop and for educating her on the dangers of distracted driving. We have also received several commendations from people thanking us for our increased emphasis on traffic enforcement.
Many large cities across the country have seen significant increases in violent crimes over the last year. These same cities have changed their proactive policing strategies, or have seen decreases in proactive policing in response to the national debate on policing. Our department has demonstrated that community trust can be maintained while practicing proactive policing by using effective communication, by treating people with dignity and respect, and by using discretion.
There has been much discussion concerning the police culture and the need to train officers to shift from a warrior mentality to a guardian mentality. I am not sure there is need to label our conduct and responsibilities or why there is a mindset that it has to be one way or the other. I believe police work requires an officer to be both.
Police officers should be the guardians of society. A guardian is defined as someone who watches or protects something; as police officers, we are tasked to watch over and protect our communities. There are times, however, that guardians must be warriors.
Just as a warrior would be trained, officers must be trained to confront danger and violence with courage as they are expected to run toward it as others flee. In order to protect those we have chosen to serve as well as ourselves, it is imperative that we are able to shift from the guardian role to the warrior role in a split second. Our training must continue to focus on officer safety and responses to violent confrontations, while also placing an emphasis on effective communication, de-escalation skills, and the use of time and distance to reduce the opportunity for deadly confrontations when possible.
Policing should be based on selfless service and the respectful treatment of all people. I take great honor in sharing the commendations received in my office on our website and through social media. I am proud to hear of the positive impressions left by officers. Several recent commendations illustrate the definition of guardian:
• Two officers responded on a check welfare call of an elderly subject. While family members made arrangements to care for the man, who could no longer care for himself, officers returned to his home on their day off, bringing him homemade cookies and doing his yard work.
• Another officer responded to a call of criminal damage when juveniles egged a house. The officer checked the area for the culprits and then returned to the home to help the homeowner clean up the mess in the middle of the night.
• An officer stopping to help an elderly confused woman.
• Officers taking the time to talk with a runaway after returning her home.
• Officers who showed deep compassion toward surviving family members during a death investigation.
• An officer rescuing a dog from a canal, and grateful parents who thanked officers for helping to turn their son’s life around;
he recently graduated from Northern Arizona University.
These are just a few examples of the commendations I receive on a daily basis. I urge you to look at our website (https://general. gilbertaz.gov/police/commendations/showAllCommendations.cfm) from time to time to see the great things that our officers and employees do as guardians of our community.
As always, I thank you for your service to our community and for your efforts to make Gilbert a great place to live, work, and play. Be safe.