Blog 2nd Edition

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Welcome to the second edition of “The Captain’s Blog”.  I initially thought that I would be turning out one of these jewels about once a week, but as you can see, that hasn’t worked out too well for me.  So…let’s shoot for once a month and see how it goes!

Because I did not get anyone else asking a pertinent question about our agency, or law enforcement in general, I am going to have to go with “Blade”, who wrote:  “I can’t wait for you to explain the quota we all know officers have”.  Wow.  Do police departments have quotas?  I don’t know of any that officially have quotas, but I imagine that departments that are big enough for traffic units and the like may have them.  Traffic enforcement is the only division of law enforcement that could probably be put on a quota system, and is probably what most citizens are concerned about.  I do know that we do not have quotas in our department, though.  That being said, we do keep statistics, just like every business and agency in existence.  How else do you keep track of what’s going on?  Whether it’s a private business, a manufacturing plant or a division of government, statistics let you know if your strategy is effective and whether your department and your people are doing their job and are being productive.  Let’s break it down.

Quotas:  These are generally used by companies that employ sales personnel.  The company wants to sell a product or service, so they give employees goals and incentives.  Many companies pay bonuses to employees that exceed their goals.  One problem with quotas is that once an employee meets his goals, he can kick back if he wants to.  If an employee meets his sales quota by the 15th, he can coast the rest of the month.  This would probably happen if the company or organization did not pay bonuses.  So, if a police officer has a quota, and he reaches that quota early in the month, do you want him “kicking back”?  Who is he protecting and serving?  And he is not going to get incentives in law enforcement. 

Statistics:  Statistics can tell the real story of what your department or an individual employee is doing while on the job.  Since law enforcement is multifaceted, it is important that statistics are kept realistically and accurately.  A couple of years back I had a reporter from an area paper call me.  She was doing an article on how many police officers a department had in comparison to their “bedroom population”.  I told her that we had 14 full time officers, but three of them were full time school resource officers that worked the schools and did not patrol the town, so it would be eleven.  She told me that she would go with the fourteen, thanked me and hung up.  A few days later, the article came out saying that we had the highest percentage of officers per bedroom population than any other agency in the upstate.  This type of stat keeping is highly inaccurate.  First, using a bedroom population as the basis for the amount of officers needed is not an accurate way of knowing how many officers are actually needed to keep the population within a municipality protected.  With several schools and businesses within the town, along with restaurants, hotels, and a large truck stop, the population of Duncan always exceeds its bedroom population.  School resource officers have their hands full working the schools and do not normally have time to patrol the town.  The article also did not state what should have been the obvious:  all officers are not on duty at the same time.  Additionally any department has to have administrators to manage the department, so they are usually not patrolling.  A department also deals with coverage issues when officers attend mandated classes or take leave, or are ill.  Police departments are also smart enough to utilize personnel in creative ways with limited resources in order to have extra coverage during peak times of the day.  One way that we do this is by employing an overlapping shift rotation that puts extra officers on the street during those times.  How do we know when these peak times occur?  Well, by statistics and records, of course.  So let’s review:  All officers employed by a department are not on patrol at the same time.  Some officers have duties where they are not on regular patrol.  Bedroom population is not an accurate way to tell how many police officers are needed at any given time.

I’m sure that you are now thinking (if you haven’t gotten bored and are still reading this) “how does the police department keep accurate stats?”  Some of it is a no brainer.  We add everything up.  This is what we have to do when we report to the state, who reports to the feds.  But if we want to know what individual officers are doing with their time, it’s trickier.  One thing that our Chief of Police initiated is our use of a Business/Residence Check Form.  During The course of their duty hours, officers perform business checks at various businesses in the town.  Residents of Duncan can also notify the police department of dates when they will be out of town, and we perform the checks at their homes while they are absent.  The officer fills out the Business/Residence Check Form and leaves the hard copy portion of the form with the business.  A second, paper copy is turned in to the department.  This is just one way our department is proactive.  It lets the business or residence know that we are checking on them, and in turn lets the department know that our officers are doing their job.  It can also help us narrow down the time frame of when a crime took place, an important step in solvability.  Let’s say Mr. Jones discovers that his shop was broken into when he reports to work at 7 A.M.  He calls the police.  Mr. Jones tells the responding officer that he secured his business and closed at 9 P.M. the night before.  Mr. Jones, though, has a business check form that was left under his door that shows Officer Smith checked his business at 4:52 A.M.  This statistic has narrowed our time frame for the burglary from 10 hours to just a little over 2 hours. 

Let’s talk about traffic enforcement for a moment.  Did you know that traffic fatalities in our state are running at roughly a hundred less this year from the same period the year before?  This is largely due to good traffic enforcement, particularly in the area of seatbelt enforcement.  Seatbelt usage is still quite low in our state, but is getting better.  Wearing a seatbelt can save your life.  Let’s take it a step further, though.  Everyone who decides to commit a crime has to get to the crime scene.  Most decide to use a motor vehicle.  Our goal is to prevent crime, not just to report it.  Traffic enforcement is a part of our crime prevention.  Many crimes are either solved or prevented because alert officers saw signs of criminal activity in a vehicle that they stopped.  How else does traffic enforcement help to prevent crime and accidents?  Well, sometimes simply by people seeing our blue lights flashing.  An officer may be merely giving a motorist a warning for a burned out light, but passersby just know that someone got pulled over.  What is the normal reaction?  To slow down and drive more carefully.  What if a criminal decides to case out some local business in our area or a residential neighborhood?  It may be a deterrent if they see blue lights flashing. 

So, we have learned that quotas are probably not a good idea for law enforcement, but we do have to report statistics.  We have learned that statistics are good, and that everybody keeps them.  We have also learned that statistics can be manipulated.  How do we know, then, if an employee is doing his job?  One way is through supervision, but another is an employee’s productivity.  Did he do business/residential checks; write warnings, and also citations when they were warranted?  How many reports and investigations was he involved in, and how many man-hours did this take?  How many motor vehicle accidents did he investigate?  Was he out on leave during a part of the month?  As you can see, this is a complex issue, and all of the above questions are taken into account. 

As a proactive department we strive to meet the needs of our ever-changing population, whether it is overnight visitors, or our “bedroom community”.   Please visit our website often to ask questions, read articles and see new pictures.

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Comments

  1. Jeff Stevens  November 1, 2010

    What are the requirements to be a Police Officer? Do you have to have a degree?

  2. Becky Spires  November 7, 2010

    Well written article.

  3. social workers  November 26, 2010

    found your site on del.icio.us today and really liked it.. i bookmarked it and will be back to check it out some more later

  4. maria andros  December 8, 2010

    Thanks for the post, keep posting stuff

  5. James L Despain  December 30, 2010

    Thanks for the great post. Bookmarked