Kalamazoo, MI: “On December 18, 2014, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order establishing the Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The Task Force seeks to identify best practices and make recommendations to the President on how policing practices can promote effective crime reduction while building public trust and examine, among other issues, how to foster strong, collaborative relationships between local law enforcement and the communities they protect”.
The Task Force structured the work underneath 6 core areas of focus with experts in the field providing testimony, written statements and opinions on where policing should move prospectively. The core areas are as follows:
· Building Trust and Legitimacy
· Policy and Oversight
· Technology and Social Media
· Community Policing and Crime Reduction
· Training and Education
· Officer Safety and Wellness
Using the framework of the President’s 21st Century Task Force on Policing as a way to categorize and convey the work the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety has been engaged in since our Traffic Stop Analysis in September 2013, it is my hope that the community appreciates the intention and honest analysis of ourselves, the critical thinking involved, the foresight and the genuine effort put forth by the men and women of Public Safety!
Building Trust and Legitimacy:
An intentional focus on our relationship with the Kalamazoo Community has been at the heart of our approach. Since March of 2014 we have been canvassing Kalamazoo neighborhoods, knocking on doors and engaging residents as a way to understand from them how we are doing and what we can do better. This allows for a genuine dialogue between officers and residents in a relaxed atmosphere. These interactions bring a “human” element to the relationship that impacts the citizen as well as their Public Safety Officer.
Internally we recognize, support and reward positive community engagement and service as much as we reward excellence in traditional police work. The number of arrests, citations and traffic stops use to be the standard measuring stick in Law Enforcement and KDPS was no different. We are changing the lens in which we view “good police work” and are setting a new definition!
We partner with many people and organizations in this community creating engagement opportunities for our citizens and officers. From fun events like block parties and “coffee with a cop” to more serious endeavors such as participating in many forums on police/community relations where the topics of police use of force, race relations and police reform are discussed. Whatever the tenor or mood of the experience is we are intent on the engagement as a sincere effort to listen, understand and be understood!
Policy and Oversight:
We developed and implemented a “consent to search” policy which gives officers specific guidelines to follow when asking for consent to search. This was a direct recommendation from the Traffic Stop Analysis study and was developed in collaboration with the Milwaukee Police Department and Austin Texas Police Department respectively.
We have repopulated the Citizen’s Public Safety Review and Appeals Board with a cross section of our community. It is our intent to utilize this board outside their normal scope of hearing appeals to serving as a sounding board for Public Safety relative to community relations, policy and problem solving.
Technology and Social Media:
We are in the midst of our Body Camera Pilot program where we have tested numerous Body Camera products. There is a wide range of issues involving their implementation that must be considered ranging from costs, data storage, policy development, FOIA implications, and immediate and on-going funding. With that said we are approaching all these dynamics methodically and responsibly so when the time comes for implementation we have done our due diligence and the program is set up for success.
Honestly we do a poor job of integrating the value of Social Media into our operations and must explore through budget and practice the best way to move forward. Our aspiration is to have a full time Public Information Officer that serves as a liaison with the media, will develop a social media presence, and help develop both internal and external communication strategies.
Community Policing and Crime Reduction:
Building upon our focus on the relationship with the community we have moved to being much less random in our approach to crime reduction. We focus on the individuals we know are committing crime or have a high propensity for violent behavior. We meet weekly to discuss “Hot People” not “Hot Spots” and focus on those individuals causing harm to our neighborhoods not the whole neighborhood themselves.
In congruence with that philosophy recently 15 people from the Kalamazoo Community traveled to John Jay College in New York for training on the Implementation of a Group Violence Intervention Model or what has been commonly known as “Operation Ceasefire”. This training was facilitated by David Kennedy, Director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. This is a promising and compelling approach to reducing violence in our community at the same time maintaining community trust. We look forward to its implementation in collaboration with the community and hope we get the necessary support for its success.
While crime rate data can be impersonal it is one measure for a community to consider. With that said in 2014 the City of Kalamazoo had a 6% reduction in overall Part I crimes and a 30% reduction in the last 6 years.
In addition the Criminal Investigations Division clearance rate on Homicides over the last 8-10 years is above 95% which for an urban city puts us 30% above the national average. This is remarkable and a testament to the dedication, pride and commitment of those investigators.
Training and Education:
Much work has been done in the training of our men and women of Public Safety. I believe the most significant and timely training is the “Fair and Impartial Policing” curriculum that our entire department has been through. The FIP training specifically addresses human bias in the context of policing. We now have four officers who are certified to facilitate this curriculum and just began training other agencies in Southwest Michigan.
In the fall of 2013 the entire department received training from the Vistelar group on verbal defense and influence as a way to continually look at and evaluate how we interact and communicate with our community.
Since 2008 KDPS, KCSO, KTPD and Portage Public Safety have been receiving on- going Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) that teaches de-escalation techniques and emphasizes referrals to services as opposed to incarceration for mental health consumers. In 2015, in partnership with Community Mental Health KDPS has committed a staff member to be the (CIT) coordinator so we can further advance the model and program.
In 2015 we will develop and facilitate “Police Legitimacy and Procedural Justice” training for the entire department. This training is replicated and modeled off of training developed between the Chicago Police Department and Yale University. In 2014 members of KDPS, the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office, Kalamazoo Township Police Department, Mayor Hopewell, City Manager Jim Ritsema, and other community stakeholders traveled to Chicago to be exposed to and trained on this curriculum.
Officer Safety and Wellness:
The Police Legitimacy Training, the Crisis Intervention Training and the Verbal Defense and Influence Training all have significant components relative to officer safety. In crisis and emotionally tense situations the more we can de-escalate, gain compliance through words, and solve the circumstance without the use of any force the safer our officers and the community is. However, let me be clear these trainings do not replace or obviate the right and obligation of our officers to protect you or themselves from an immediate threat to their life and yours. Everyone deserves to go home safe including the men and women protecting this community every day!
KDPS has a Chaplain Program and a Family Support Network that is available to our officers in time of need. I believe we take great pride in being there for our officers whatever the challenge they may be facing.
I tried to hi-lite the most significant pieces of our efforts and by no means is this meant to be all inclusive, but I believe it captures a significant body of work and a clear trajectory of progress.
I want to thank the community for their support and pushing us to be the best we can be. Your questions, perspectives, and participation in your Public Safety Department is welcomed and appreciated.
I want to acknowledge the hard work of the men and women of Public Safety. As we have moved forward over the last few years they have steadfastly and honorably served this community and lace their boots up every day with a clear intention of being the best they can be.
As the Presidential Task Force submits its recommendations to the President by March 2, 2015 we should be braced to receive those recommendations, evaluate them in terms of what we can reasonably accomplish independently, which ones would require other partners, resources and discussion, and which ones may be out of our ability and scope. The community is a critical piece of this process and should lend itself to the analysis, discussion and manner in which we move forward prospectively.
Professionally and Sincerely,
Chief Jeffrey M. Hadley