Police Chief Details New Crime Prevention Strategies
Department-wide goals focus on crime analysis, citizen expectations.
Ernest Brown took the helm as Darien Police Chief last November, and over the past nine months, the 28-year police veteran has been on a mission to increase the efficiency of the department while affecting a decrease in criminal activity in the community.
At a goal-setting meeting shortly after assuming the chief’s position last fall, Brown said his vision for the police department would “revolve around refinement rather than wholesale changes or repairs.”
“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,” Brown said as he began his full-time duties as chief.
At a police committee meeting last week and at Monday night’s city council meeting, Brown touched on a few highlights of the department’s new crime prevention strategy – and how it is being implemented in the community.
What is the new strategy?
Patch emailed a series of questions to Brown this week, asking him to provide details on the department’s new strategy. Our questions are in italics, followed by Chief Brown’s answers.
Patch: Would you go into more detail about how last year's (crime) figures will be used by the department in implementing the new strategy?
Chief Brown: “This strategy, which is new to the Darien Police Department, is not new to modern police management practices. The concept of using data for police management is referred to as Workload Based Analysis. The International City Management Association Center for Public Safety Management recommends conducting a Workload Analysis as a means to reduce costs and improve performance of your public safety services.
“An analysis of police workload, including citizen and officer-initiated activities, allows communities to show how actual workload compares to deployment, providing objective data on staffing and scheduling requirements. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) states, ‘Ready-made, universally applicable patrol staffing standards do not exist. Ratios, such as officers-per-thousand population, are totally inappropriate as a basis for staffing decisions.’
“Applying this modern police strategy to the Darien Police Department requires us to analyze police data such as call volume, call distribution, time of day and year, geographic location, types of crime and specific factors associated with crime, number of 911 calls for service, and the discretionary time officers spend when not responding to 911 calls. Discretionary time is defined as that period of time when an officer's duties are not pre-determined by radio assignments or directions from supervisors.
“This modern Darien Police Department strategy examines how officers are allocated by shift, and how their time is allocated within that shift. Toward that end we look at discretionary time of the officers. Discretionary time is defined as that period of time when an officer's duties are not pre-determined by radio assignments or directions from supervisors.
“With that information at hand police managers look at historical data (same time frame during prior year) and other information and develop a plan to prevent the likelihood of a crime or address an existing one. This modern Darien Police Department strategy will provide the City with the ability to objectively measure the Darien Police Department and make the management decisions that will define where, when and how resources are allocated.”
Using workload analysis to apply a police strategy
Chief Brown: “One of the recent examples on how to apply a police strategy based on workload analysis was the fourth of July. Every year in the United States, we celebrate the Fourth of July with community parades, picnics, barbecues, and fireworks - the things of which happy memories are made.
“But sadly, Independence Day also includes tragic events resulting from fireworks use. In 2010, U.S. hospital emergency rooms treated an estimated 8,600 people for fireworks-related injuries. Seventy-three percent of these injuries occurred between June 18 - July 18, and children under 15 years old accounted for 40 percent of the estimated injuries.
“In that instance we looked at historical data for illegal fireworks activity in 2011. In doing so we were able to determine the call volume and the geographic location where the activity originated. With that knowledge and the knowledge that Darien has a fairly homogenous population it was our belief that we would experience the calls within the same geographic location as from the prior year.
“The result was a strategy that involved creation and distribution of an informational flier that discouraged the use of illegal fireworks. The officers distributed the flier. The officers then focused their patrols on the geographic location identified. The result of the effort was a 53 percent reduction in the number of calls and a 71 percent reduction in the amount of time officers spent responding to such calls. The resultant savings in time was 7.42 hours or the equivalent of saving one entire work shift.”
Patch: How will the program be used to set goals for individual officers?
Chief Brown: “In order to accomplish modern police strategies, goals are focused department-wide based on crime analysis and citizen expectations. Individual officers then have a responsibility to carry out those goals on a daily basis. At the core of a good police officer is someone who is motivated and rewarded by providing the best possible services to the community. Challenging officers to be creative, productive, and competitive among their peers will result in a motivated and rewarded police officer.”
Patch: You also talked about developing a performance evaluation system as a
management tool to establish a baseline for officers’ productivity. How is the performance evaluation system being designed and implemented?
Chief Brown: “Any performance evaluation system is a communication tool that is used to make sure the officers understand community/department. Also, it evaluates that their work activities are focused on those goals. New evaluation forms are being created and will serve as a basis for annual meetings with the officers.”
Patch: What other strategies or programs have you implemented or are you planning to implement to make the department more efficient and responsive to citizens?
Chief Brown: “The other portion of the strategy involves creating standardized organizational processes.
“We created a revised officer complaint investigation process, in order to ensure that all complaints against officers are catalogued and that we remain continually mindful of the needs of the community that we serve.
“Additionally, one of the other cornerstones of a pro-active policing philosophy is conducting ongoing vulnerability and threat assessments. As part of such a process we have recently identified a group of individuals who are consistently at the core (or) heart of criminal problems within Darien.
“After identifying various criminal and behavioral links between the groups, we catalogued their behavior and created a top 10 offenders board. We supplied photographs of these subjects to all officers and are collaborating with our sister agencies on how to ensure that the criminal behavior of these individuals is monitored, steps are taken to prevent them from offending in the future, and wherever practical and based upon continued criminal conduct apprehending and prosecuting these individuals.
Increase resident communication through monthly reports, crime mapping data.
“We are currently examining two resources designed to give us GIS mapping capability. There is a public component that will allow residents to view Darien-related crime and then there is the law enforcement view that affords law enforcement the ability to track, analyze, respond to and prevent crimes from occurring based upon trends and other historical data.
“The overarching goal of the direction of the department is euphemistically to be prepared for a hurricane, when we will likely only experience a mild rainstorm.”
Strategies already under way
Brown laid out additional strategies the department is employing to further refine its practices and procedures. The chief said that in addition for the need for collaboration with citizens, the department needs to collaborate with other agencies within the city, as well.
“With that in mind,” Brown said, “we have initiated a strategy to ensure that we foster empowering relationships with those sister agencies. The strategy involves the police department hosting regularly scheduled meetings with the agencies, park district, school districts, library (and) public works. In addition to maintaining lines of communication, the goal is to identify and develop solutions to common or potential problems that overlap our respective areas of interest.”
Brown detailed other new strategies the department plans to employ:
- “Use of a customer satisfaction survey as a means of measuring courtesy, professionalism and overall customer service. The plan would begin with measuring staff inside the police facility and gradually be integrated to citizen interaction with field officer, possibly using an online survey where a citizen who had contact with an officer could log onto the website and complete a survey.”
- “A strategy to address graffiti that revolves around the notion of removing graffiti as soon as we become aware of it. This practice is then consistent with the idea of "terrain denial." Graffiti is an antisocial act frequently intended to identify, claim or mark territory. If it is immediately removed, its impact is taken away.”
- “Expansion of our community policing/community engagement by involving all Darien officers in the process. Currently, the community engagement component rests almost entirely in the very capable hands of Officer Nick Skweres and CSO Sarah Falco, but if community engagement is to be effective and be an essential component in the fight against crime and disorder, it must be woven into the fiber of the department and that can only happen if every member of the department has an active role. Those roles will include teaching gang and drug awareness and resistance (and) attending meetings. This area will also be made a performance metric and ultimately be identified as part of the job description.”
- “In a different area of community engagement we will begin working with local leasing/property managers in order to ensure that the values of the community are taken into consideration by drafting smart leases that ensure that antisocial, illegal and criminal behaviors are discouraged and provide remedies for landlords who find themselves with such tenants. This practice is again a proactive strategy designed to have processes in place BEFORE they are needed.”