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.
Welcome to June! Last week, on June 4, we said good-bye to another long-term employee, Detective David Landgraf, to retirement. As with all those who retire from our department with honor, we do not say good-bye – they will always be a member of our extended family. We will be saying good-bye to two more employees in July, Crime Prevention Specialist Mary Jo Kuzmick and Policy and Inspections Compliance Louise Phillips.
Impending Personnel Vacancies: Prior to recruiting for the positions vacated in July, we will be revamping the duties to meet the growing needs of the department. The crime prevention technician will be retitled/repurposed to a new position called, “Public Affairs Technician.” This position will handle the maintenance of the department’s web page and the various social media platforms employed by the department (Facebook, Twitter). It will also be responsible for the department newsletter, and act as a liaison with the Town’s Office of Communications, media outlets, and community organizations. Recruitment for this position will be internal and external.
The policy and compliance coordinator will continue to maintain the general orders and directives and the department’s general inspection program. The general inspection program not only ensures compliance with established general orders but identifies processes for improvement within the department. Additionally, the position will be taking on the development of a procedures manual for the department. To be eligible for the position, a candidate must possess a bachelor’s degree, have experience in policy research and development, operation of an inspection program within a criminal justice agency, and experience in coordinating process improvement programs. Ideally, a candidate will have experience with CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) and be certified, or have experience, in a process improvement program such as Lean Six Sigma. Recruitment for this position will also be internal and external.
Budget: The Town Council approved the Fiscal Year 2016 budget last week. The positions that we requested and that were approved are: one crime analyst, a child-sex crimes detective, a records redaction clerk, and a sergeant.
The crime analyst position will replace the crime suppression officer who is currently assigned to the Fusion Center. The CST officer will be redeployed as a property crimes detective. The records redaction clerk will take over the majority of the redaction tasks associated with the body worn cameras and police reports. This position will continue to be supported by Teleserve personnel as we continue the implementation of the BWC program.
Currently, we have two open positions in the School Resource program. These positions will be allocated to Patrol leaving us at status quo for staffing in SRO while still providing adequate coverage for all of the high schools and having two roving officers to cover the junior high and elementary schools.
We have successfully contracted with the Arizona Humane Society to conduct animal cruelty and neglect investigations and to respond to injured animals. Maricopa Animal Care and Control remains the primary enforcement agency for bite investigations, reports of stray dogs, and dog licensing.
Body Worn Camera Program: We have received the remaining body worn cameras and equipment. Cameras will be issued shortly after shift change in a wave roll-out, in the order listed below. Currently, the plan is to allow a minimum of two weeks between each wave to address any issues that arise.
• Graveyard Patrol Teams and Night Traffic
• Day Traffic, Crime Suppression, Civilian Patrol
• Swing Shift Patrol Teams
• Day shift Patrol Teams
Vehicle Collisions: Since January, we have seen an increase in traffic collisions within the Town; the increase in fatal and near fatal collisions is particularly concerning. Since January, 10 individuals have lost their lives due to collisions on Gilbert roadways; 10 families have lost their loved ones. In all of 2014, we had seven lives lost. While our numbers are low compared to similar communities, this is still a significant concern. We all know that collisions are caused by a number of factors, not the least of which are impairment, speed, distracted drivers, and not using seat belts. In an effort to bring this issue to the forefront, we have launched a community awareness program called “Speed Down – Eyes Up – Drive Safely.” The campaign focuses on education combined with enforcement. Traffic and special enforcement units will be conducting directed enforcement activities in areas with higher volumes of collision; visibility is a proven detractor of traffic law violations. We will also be using social media to promote the ideals of obeying traffic laws and avoiding distractions while behind the wheel. We will also be emphasizing the use of seat belts and the dangers of driving impaired. None of this should be construed as a mandate for officers to write more tickets. They should be issued when it is appropriate, but it is just as, if not more, important to correct driving behavior. One vital element that will contribute to the success of this campaign, is taking the time to explain to drivers why they were stopped – having a better understanding of their behavior will help a driver correct their behavior long term. This is an issue that must involve the public as it is not something we can manage on our own.
As always, thank you for your efforts to keep this great community safe. Always remember our core values: Courage, Honor, Integrity, and Professionalism; and the importance of treating people with dignity and respect while protecting yourself and others.
This past Thursday, April 30, we gathered at the memorial in front of the police department to remember our fallen co-workers, just as we have done for the past nine years since the death of Officer Robert D. Targosz. Not only do we honor the memories and sacrifices of Rob and Lieutenant Eric Shuhandler, we also honor all those who have served, are serving, and who will serve to protect this great community. I feel blessed to serve in Gilbert alongside the men and women of this police department and with our brothers and sisters of Gilbert Fire and Rescue. I thank everyone who participated in the memorial service and the Pride and Honor Run/Ride.
Just inside the door to our Communications Center, there is a board where a “quote of the week” is posted for all to see as they enter to start their day. Recently, I saw a quote and the message resonated deeply with me. I feel that it not only reflects what Rob Targosz and Eric Shuhandler stood for, but that it was a very timely reminder in light of what has been happening in our profession lately. The quote is by Dave Willis and it says, “Show respect even to people who don’t deserve it; not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of yours.” The importance of this message is immense; we will soon be posting it where you will be reminded of it each time you leave our building to carry out your difficult and demanding duties.
As I think about the continuing national debate on police / community relations, I often wonder why the discussion never ventures into trust and confidence within a community being a two-way street. The police must respect all members of the community and conversely, the community must respect the police and the rule of law. We have been given the responsibility to treat people with dignity and respect, even when we are not treated likewise. We can hold people accountable for their actions and maintain order in the community while treating them as we would want members of our own families treated. At the same time, there needs to be an understanding that we are tasked with enforcing the law and maintaining public order. To do that, we cannot always make people happy. At times, it is necessary for us to use reasonable force to not only protect us and others, but to maintain order in the community. As I have said before, the place to resist the police is in the courtroom or through the complaint process, not during an arrest or detention. We have an obligation to carry out our duties in a lawful and responsible way, with the mission of solving problems, maintaining public order, and protecting not only ourselves but the public we serve. This is what ‘policing with a purpose,’ is all about and it should guide our decision making and use of discretion.
We also have an obligation to hold officers accountable when there is evidence that they failed to follow the very laws they are sworn to uphold and if they fail to do so, we must enforce the policies of our department. Unfortunately, we have seen situations where officers have violated the law and their oath of office. There are those with agendas, both political and personal, who are trying to lead people toward believing that this behavior is widespread and systemic in American policing. The actions of a few do not reflect the majority; most officers and departments serve their communities with bravery, honor, and dignity every day. These officers have earned the respect of the law abiding citizens of their communities. Conversely, we must also remember that those who riot and commit acts of violence against the police are small factions within their communities; most people are law abiding and respectful. As I have often said before, I want people who break the law to fear being caught by the police, not to fear the police.
We are fortunate to live and serve in a community where the greater number of people support and trust our police department. We have earned respect by showing respect. I thank you for your efforts.
As always, thank you for what you do to serve our community. Selfless service is our business. Stay safe.
This past Thursday, April 2nd, was a bittersweet day for the Gilbert Police Department as we said farewell to retired Lieutenant Joe Ruet. When I think of Joe, there are several things that come to mind: integrity, loyalty, dedication, compassion, faith, and sense of humor. Joe is a selfless man who has dedicated much of his life to service. He is a man of faith who has compassion for victims and those in need, often reaching into his own pocket to lend a helping hand. Joe was also a street cop with a bulldog’s tenacity for finding suspects and a huge catalog of career criminals etched into his memory. I will miss Joe as a member of this great organization. I don’t think I can say the same for the smell of sardines that often wafted from his doorway. I wish Joe and his family great happiness in his well-deserved retirement.
The retirement of Lt. Ruet opens two promotional opportunities. With that, we congratulate new promoted Lieutenant Brian Blunt and Sergeant Jason Roman. We look forward to the great things they will bring to their new positions.
The lone gunman shooting spree on March 18, in Mesa was a textbook example of teamwork and partnerships between our neighboring communities. As soon as we overheard the radio traffic, one shooting suspect, multiple victims at multiple scenes, we contacted the Mesa Police Department to offer our assistance and stand ready should we be needed. We were able to help their agency by taking priority calls occurring near where our cities meet and once the suspect was contained in an apartment complex, our SWAT team deployed to assist with door to door searches. The suspect was eventually caught and taken into custody without incident by Mesa’s SWAT unit. I was extremely proud to see our officers and officers from neighboring agencies working as a unified team to locate an extremely violent suspect and bring this violent rampage to a successful end.
In December, President Obama signed an executive order forming the Task Force on 21st Century Policing. This task force was formed to examine how to strengthen public trust and foster strong relationships between local law enforcement and the communities they serve. In March, they released their findings along with many recommendations that reach all levels of the criminal justice system, from the local police department through the federal government. The recommendations touch on a vast spectrum of topics including use of force, policy development, staffing, and development of 21st century technology, just to name a few.
One recommendation of note is the formation of a criminal justice commission that would conduct a review of the entire criminal justice system. This is something the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has been a proponent of for several years. One other recommendation has to do with the idea of procedural justice. The report recommends that police agencies adhere to the practices of procedural justice to maintain legitimacy with the public they serve. Procedural justice in a law enforcement setting can be summed up with four basic actions: 1) Treat people with respect; 2) Listen to what they have to say; 3) Make fair decisions; and 4) Explain your actions.
This is a concept that we, in the Gilbert Police Department, have adhered to for some time. Our department philosophy stresses the importance, and expectation, of treating people with dignity and respect; using data to deploy resources and to address community concerns; using enforcement to reduce collisions and to detect and deter criminal activity; transparency; and sustaining open lines of communication with the public we serve.
While we stress the importance of officers making citizen contacts, we do not place an emphasis on writing citations. The issuance of a warning can often make a longer lasting, positive impression on a driver while still allowing us to carry out the missions of traffic enforcement. Data collected from these contacts is used to direct enforcement activities to reduce crime and collisions as well as aid in identifying individuals involved in criminal activities.
If we continue to abide by our philosophy, we will cultivate our culture of fairness which enhances the trust our citizens have in us and support the high satisfaction they have with the services we provide. Trust and satisfaction only serve to enhance our partnership with the community we serve.
Keep up the good work, stay safe, and thank you for what you do to keep our community safe.
I had the pleasure of attending the premier of Mayor Lewis’ Digital State of Town last week. The Digital Team has produced another outstanding message. This year, the theme was “Growing Up Gilbert.” It includes several testimonials from employees, and residents alike, who grew up in the community and who continue to be a valuable part of it. Also highlighted in the message were the numerous accolades received by the Town:
• 2nd safest city in the U.S.
• 2nd best city in the U.S. for veterans
• 3rd best place to find a job in the U.S.
• 4th best community for Hispanic entrepreneurs
• 5th largest community in Arizona; 87th largest community in the United States
• 5th best food neighborhood in Metro Phoenix
• 9th best city for families in the U.S.
• 12th fastest growing community in the U.S.
• 22nd best place to live in the U.S.
• Best city in the U.S. for working parents
• Playful City USA honoree, eighth year in row.
We achieve all of this with the lowest employee per population ratio and lowest dollar per citizen ratio of our surrounding communities. We, as a police department, are continually working hand-in-hand with the community and other town departments to contribute our part in the achievement of all of these recognitions. I am extremely proud of the work you do as part of the Town’s goal to be “best in class in all lines of service.”
Other highlights of the presentation included the great strides in economic development that the Town has made. This includes the newly opened parking garage that supports the many new restaurants opening downtown and the Saint Xavier University satellite campus that is projected to open this year. Other exciting news on the economic news was the local production of the Iridium Next Satellite by Orbital Sciences. This added production makes Orbital Sciences the largest satellite manufacturer in the United States. The Digital State of Town may be viewed at http://www.gilbertaz.gov/stateofthetown, it’s entertaining and informative.
Another important topic discussed was the Town’s recent award of an AA+ bond rating. This rating is the second highest credit rating that can be achieved. Achieving this rating is a significant accomplishment in and of itself; however it is even more significant given that many municipalities have been downgraded during the recent recession. This rating speaks highly of the Town’s dedication to lowering its overall debt and the zero based budgeting process.
In other news, we recently held a new sergeant promotional testing process. Congratulations to all of the officers who tested and thank you to all of the employees who helped make the process successful. This year, the process was revised to be hands-on and situational based in lieu of the traditional question and answer format. While the new process required significant preparation and many resources, it gave evaluators the ability to see how applicants would actually perform in a given situation and rate them accordingly. We have received a lot of positive feedback from both applicants and evaluators and will use this to further enhance the process.
An eligibility list was created from the testing and is awaiting final approval from Human Resources. Once this happens, the promotion will be announced and will be effective on March 30. This position is being filled in anticipation of a sergeant promoting into Lieutenant Joe Ruet’s positing pending his retirement in early April. A second sergeant promotion is pending the approval of a new position through the budget process. Once the fiscal year 15/16 budget is approved, along with the sergeant’s position, the second promotion will be announced.
The lieutenant promotion process is scheduled for mid-March to fill Lt. Ruet’s position; this promotion will be effective March 30. Also on March 30, Commander Buckland and Commander Smith will be reassigned to Patrol and Investigations, respectively. Lieutenants Lyle and White will also switch assignments on this date.
We are continuing to move forward with the body worn camera (BWC) project. We will be making a presentation to Council during a study session in March. After which, we will be requesting approval to purchase the additional cameras and to expand the contract to cover storage related costs for those additional cameras.
We have developed a workflow for redaction of the video and have identified the additional resources that will be needed to comply with both public and court/prosecutor requests. As of this writing, personnel are being trained to help with the redaction process for court/prosecutor video requests, which will help reduce the time patrol officers are spending reviewing recordings. However, officers will still be required to review recordings subject to media release or public records requests. Officers who already have cameras will receive additional training on the redaction processes and procedures.
Officers receiving cameras for the first time will receive training on their operation, operational procedures and general orders, and redaction. We are planning that it will take several months to issue remaining cameras once they are received from the manufacturer, but it is our anticipation that all cameras will be issued and completely operational before to the end of the fiscal year, June 30.
I continue to receive a lot of compliments, notes of thanks, and commendations from the community for our employees. The underlying theme of the vast majority of these notes are about treating people with dignity and respect, showing compassion, and going the extra mile to help people out. One shining example of this is the response to some photos posted on social media recently. The photos were of Gilbert and Chandler officers who volunteered their time to escort the daughter of Chandler Officer Bryant Holmes, who was killed in Gilbert, to her father/daughter dance. These officers did not do this for recognition; they did it to honor a fallen comrade by showing kindness and compassion to a little girl who lost her farther. But recognition they did receive – worldwide recognition. I am honored to serve with people willing to go the extra mile out of sheer kindness.
Gilbert was recently recognized for having a 67% survival rate during witnessed cardiac arrest situations; this is the highest in the state and one of the highest (if not the highest) in the country. This is just one more example of community and public safety personnel working together. The number of police officers who receive lifesaving medals each year clearly demonstrates our involvement as a part of the team responsible for achieving these results. Responding with our EMS personnel to life threatening emergency medical calls is another service that we provide to our community that aids in increasing the levels of safety in our community.
One of our core values is professionalism. I define professionalism as the way others view us. We must always strive to conduct ourselves in an exemplary manner. Think about how you would want a family member treated by law enforcement if they found themselves in that situation. Be that ideal officer. We must maintain self- discipline and control, which includes avoiding the use of profanity, during situations where we use force, are making arrests, or when we are dealing with hostile individuals. By doing so, we maintain our reputation as a professional public service organization and retain the respect of our community.
As always, thank you for what you do and stay safe.
Welcome to 2015! As I reflect back on 2014, I realize it was a very busy year for us. Looking forward, we will continue to be busy as we address the challenges facing our community, our department, and our profession.
We saw many exciting and rewarding events take place last year in our department. After many, many months of planning the Gilbert-Chandler Unified Holding Facility became operational in November. This facility is helping to keep our police officers in town which enhances service levels in both Chandler and Gilbert. Another big project that was launched was the first phase of the body worn camera program. With the partial roll-out, we have been able to scrutinize and refine our general orders and operational procedures for the cameras. Overall, the camera program is designed to increase transparency, reduce complaints, increase the quality of our investigations, and to protect our officers and department. We also began testing the use of tablet computers in the field and completed much of the ground work for implementing e-citations.
On an enforcement level, Operation Gale Force was the largest neighborhood-based drug reduction and enforcement operation ever conducted in our community. Following a several months’ long investigation, this operation resulted in significant drug seizures and has greatly improved the quality of life for residents in the downtown area.
Our overall crime rate continues to be the lowest of any Arizona community with a population greater than 100,000. Nationally, Gilbert was again rated as the second safest community in the United States, as compared to communities with more than 200,000 residents. These are rankings for which we can all be proud.
Speaking of population, it is estimated that Gilbert has surpassed both Glendale and Scottsdale in total population. This estimation makes us the fifth largest community in Arizona, behind Phoenix, Tucson, Mesa, and Chandler. In addition to our population growth, there has been significant business growth downtown. New restaurants, a parking structure, and the construction of a university campus have all played a role in helping the downtown area to become a destination spot in the East Valley.
Lastly, we said good-bye to some longtime friends as they retired: Records Manager Anna Ames, Officer Joe Gilligan, Legal Advisor Kate Weiby, Records Supervisor Kenna Espersen, Officer Brenda Tomory, Counselor Sharon Taylor-Wood, Alarm Coordinator Bob Schubert, 911 Operator Tracy Liday, Officer Scott Perron, and Officer Patrick Buvala. We welcomed Breena Meng as our new Legal Advisor. We also congratulated new supervisors Elizabeth Ashcroft in Records and Trish Abeyta in Communications.
In 2015, we anticipate lieutenant and sergeant promotions to fill positions. These promotional opportunities are as a result of retirements and an additional sergeant slot that we are requesting through the budget process to address span of control goals. We are also going to implement a Family Violence Response Team within the Crime Suppression Team. This team will be staffed by two police officer positions, from last year’s budget, once hiring and training are complete. As we anticipate several more retirements this year, we will welcome many new faces.
We hope to fully implement the body worn camera program in all enforcement related units early this year. We are also looking forward to implementing the electronic citation program in the Traffic Unit. We will continue to examine the way we do business to maximize the utilization of our limited resources, all the while maintaining the trust and confidence of our community. We will also continue to work in partnership to maintain the high levels of public safety that our residents and members of the business community have grown to expect.
On January 28th we will honor the memory of Lieutenant Eric Shuhandler, who lost his life protecting our community. I hope that you will join us for our Pride and Honor run from Eric’s memorial marker to the Public Safety Complex, which will be followed by a lunch. Later that night, we will hold our annual awards banquet to celebrate the accomplishments of some of Gilbert PD’s finest. I want to offer my sincerest thanks to the members of our awards committee for all of their hard work to make these events memorable for all who partake.
I am hopeful that the trial for Lieutenant Shuhandler’s killer will take place this year so that he can be held accountable for his actions.
I am currently testing the Blauer “Armorskin” outer vest carrier, which is made of the same material as our Class B button style uniform shirt. I will be presenting this item to our uniform committee as an outer carrier option for the Class B uniform; this option will not be available for the patrol polo shirt. Please note that I am not considering replacing the polo style shirt or the MOLLE-style outer vest carrier worn with the polo shirt; the Blauer vest carrier will be an additional option for uniformed wear.
Recently, IACP President Chief Richard Beary testified before the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. He spoke of the decline in violent crime rates in the United States, which are at the lowest levels since 1978. Chief Beary emphasized that a crucial factor in this decline is partnerships that exist between the police and the community they serve. He went on to speak of the law enforcement officers that have great relationships with their communities and how the majority of contacts between the police and the public are non-violent, non-confrontational. Fatal encounters between citizens and law enforcement account for less than 1% of the millions of arrests that are made nationwide each year.
Chief Beary went on to testify that, on average, there more than 50,000 assaults are committed against law enforcement officers annually, resulting 14,000 officers injured and an average of 126 deaths in the line of duty each year. In 2014, 15 officers were killed nationwide in ambush style attacks, matching 2012 for the highest number since 1995.
The testimony also spoke of the community policing efforts that have been hampered by reduced budgets and resources as well as reduced services for the mentally ill and substance abusers. The latter has resulted in an increased involvement by the police in these complex and potentially dangerous issues. Police departments across the country are being told to “do more with less.”
IACP held the National Policy Summit on Community-Police Relations: Creating a Culture of Cohesion/Collaboration. Participants at this summit identified three elements of strong community-police relations: educating the community about police practices; consistent communication with the community and internally within police departments; and partnerships and collaboration with the community are crucial to effective relationships. For over 20 years, IACP has been advocating for the creation of National Commission on Criminal Justice in order to examine the effectiveness of the entire criminal justice system.
As the national debate on policing continues, we must continue to focus our efforts on the majority of our community members who desire to live, work, and recreate in a safe environment. We have seen many people thanking our police officers for our efforts to keep them safe.
We must demonstrate a “warrior” mentality, when the situation calls for it. A warrior mentality is based on having the courage and tenacity to face danger and to place the welfare and safety of others before self. We also must have the ability to set the warrior mentality aside when it is not needed. We do this by demonstrating the ability to treat people with dignity and respect, demonstrating the ability to de-escalate confrontations when it’s possible through effective tactics and communication skills; and, by demonstrating compassion when people are victimized or are facing adversity.
I wish you and your family a safe and happy new year.
It was recently announced that, once again, Gilbert has been ranked the second safest city in the United States for cities with a population that is greater than 200,000. This ranking comes from Law Street Media using 2013 FBI UCR statistics. This is a great accomplishment for which our employees and the community, as a whole, may be proud. This ranking serves to illustrate the strong partnerships we have forged with our residents and our community’s business owners.
I am often asked how we can continue to achieve accolades such as this with our comparatively low staffing levels. Equally as often, my response is good people, good partnerships, good tactics, and good training. The community we serve is generally law abiding and is made up of people who care about, and are proud of, their community, their neighbors, and their families. For our part, we work diligently to hire similarly minded people who have a desire to serve the community, and who support and abide by our mission statement and values.
Our values focus on treating people with dignity and respect while providing high quality, customer-focused service. In furtherance of this, we work with the community to address their concerns, to maintain their trust and confidence, and to prevent crime. In addition to working with community members, we have built strong partnerships with other criminal justice agencies to address cross-jurisdictional crime. We constantly review the best practices in law enforcement to identify areas where we can improve. We use data to analyze how to best deploy our limited resources that is both effective and efficient. Our tactics and training focus on de-escalation to minimize our use of force, while being aggressive in our efforts to hold people accountable for victimizing and compromising the well-being of our residents. These tactics have saved multiple lives of armed suspects who were threatening to harm themselves or other people.
Our noble profession has been under attack of late; some in politics, media, and special interest groups have accused us of losing the trust or our communities. Ironically, national public opinion polls rate trust in police officers higher than the very occupations that have made these accusations. One media outlet recently reported this in an article, but concluded that trust in law enforcement will most likely be reduced by the coverage of recent events. Law enforcement agencies, like ours, across this great country have made great strides in their communities through partnerships developed by employing community policing. A strong partnership between a law enforcement agency and the community it serves requires open lines of communication and transparency; sometimes there are dynamics in place that make this harder in some communities than in others.
There have been great advances in police tactics and strategies, such as Intelligence-led Policing, that have resulted in reductions in violent crime and overall crime rates. Unfortunately, there are also critics claiming there are too many people arrested for gun crimes and drug offenses; offenses that degrade the quality of life in many neighborhoods. Throughout the recent intense media coverage, one important factor is rarely discussed: solid partnerships and community trust are two-way streets. They must have commitments and open communication between the both police and community. Another important point not being discussed is the significant increase in firearms related deaths of law enforcement officers. I am very concerned about the seemingly encouraged acts of violence against police and that people are being emboldened to resist law enforcement. The place to resist law enforcement and authority is in the courtroom, not on the street.
There are things that we can do to maintain positive relationships and to repair the damage that is being done. We will continue to move forward with our body worn camera program. While we are still working to resolve some issues (such as slow download times), it is my desire to complete the roll-out to officers in patrol functions during calendar year 2015. The benefits of the body worn cameras far outweigh the administrative burden. I feel that it is essential that we move forward with the program to not only hold ourselves accountable for our actions and maintain transparency, but also to protect our officers and our department.
While research indicates that body worn cameras reduce complaints and use of force incidents, they are not an all-encompassing solution to maintain trust and transparency. We must be prepared to explain what is seen on the videos and officer must clearly explain and justify their actions in their departmental reports. These explanations must include officers’ perceptions and observations that resulted in their actions. We continue to use appropriate force when it is necessary to protect ourselves and other, but we must be prepared to explain our actions. We must be prepared to answer why it takes multiple officers to control suspects who are resisting arrest and the dangers posed to officers when a suspect refuses to place their hands behind their back to be handcuffed, resists arrest, or flees from law enforcement.
We must continue to train our officers to de-escalate situations by slowing things down and effectively communicating with people when we can do so without compromising the safety. Patrol tactics should include the creation of distance when approaching suspects to give ourselves options when we are dealing with potential threat situations. We must continue to cultivate a culture in our organization that stresses treating people with dignity and respect when we can, even when they are not treating us that way.
Lastly, we need to take the time to talk to people, rather than talking at them. Ask people to do things before telling them when you can. Do not be afraid to explain the why of your actions and our procedures. Always remember our oath of office and that we are here to serve our community. We are tasked with enforce the law and maintaining order in a culture and environment which resents authority. We will not make everyone happy. It is unrealistic to believe people will like us when we hold them accountable by arresting or citing them. It is also important to remember that the majority of the public we serve appreciate us for our service. They frequently commend our officers and employees for professionalism, compassion, and for going beyond the expected to give them assistance and service. Our goal is to maintain the trust, confidence, and the respect of the majority.
Best wishes to all of you for a safe and happy holiday season and in the New Year.