Big changes are not imminent at the Darien Police Department, Chief Ernest Brown said Wednesday at the city council’s annual goal-setting session.
Brown, who officially assumed his new role Wednesday, said he wanted to allay concerns that he planned on radically transforming the department.
“There is a great deal of consternation both internally and externally for the potential of change,” he said. “There’s going to be no effort to make Darien into ‘Chicago West.’”
Rather, his vision for the police department revolves around refinement rather than wholesale changes or repairs, he said.
Brown comes to Darien after 28 years with the Chicago Police Department, where he served most recently as bureau chief for the patrol division.
While he didn’t begin working in Darien full time until Wednesday, Brown said he has spent the past 60 days meeting with the city’s officers and immersing himself in their practices.
“The best place for me to begin is assuming that I know absolutely nothing and can be filled with the knowledge Darien police officers have to give me,” he said.
He said he plans on examining staffing levels with the help of pro bono government consulting firm Civic Consulting Alliance, as well as an independent advisor.
The firm, which works primarily with the City of Chicago, uses a formula to help determine how government bodies should allocate resources.
“One of the big issues for me is how many officers is enough, and how many do we need to effectively police,” Brown said.
Some practices, including crime tracking, could potentially be automated, he said.
The alliance did a similar review with the Chicago Police Department in 2009, according to a case study on its website.
As a result of the study, 150 officers were reassigned from administrative tasks to neighborhood operations after the firm found redundancies between what the officers did and what computers could accomplish.
Brown said he will also scrutinize the department’s budget to figure out ways to save money while maintaining the level of service.
He said he plans to prioritize training in areas such as drug and terror activity. Much of the training could be completed for free, he said, and would help boost officer morale.
“When a new chief comes in there’s a perception of a glass ceiling,” he said. “The more prepared officers are, the less likely they are to see a glass ceiling.”
Community outreach will be another focus of his administration, Brown said.
During those meetings, the groups will have the opportunity to share their thoughts on what the police department is doing well and how it could serve the community better.
From that dialogue, Brown said he hopes to foster a greater exchange of information that includes community bulletins on crime trends and other public safety issues.
“This is not to peddle fear," he said. "This is to peddle information.”