by Jeff Sykes

GPD seeks balance, accountability in new patrol plan | @jeffreysykes

Greensboro police are a couple of weeks away from reassigning staff as part of a process that will bring 60 extra patrol officers to city streets.

The Neighborhood Oriented Policing plan, which will bring new division maps and increased patrol zones, won’t be fully implemented until early January. But a cadre of deputy chiefs at a community forum this week said that new patrol lieutenants would most likely be assigned in the next two weeks.

That comment came from soon-to-be interim Chief Of Police Anita Holder toward the end of a 90-minute forum where police explained the new plan to 18 members of the public who showed up Monday to the Lewis Center on Forest Lawn Drive. Holder, who joined the department in 1987 and has been a deputy chief since 2011, was announced as interim chief last week.

She will assume the top job on Aug. 31, when current Chief Ken Miller leaves to take a similar post in Greenville, South Carolina.

Holder is overseeing the transition to neighborhood oriented policing, but it fell to Deputy Chief Wayne Scott to explain the process to the public.

Under the most recent trend, police have operated within the community oriented policing philosophy, which seeks partnerships between police and residents in defined neighborhoods to combat crime where it has the most impact on citizens. This model used Community Resource Teams, groups of officers assigned to address quality of life issues and to increase citizen satisfaction with police services.

While presence and image benefited greatly from this model, experience showed significant holes in the model’s true impact on more serious crimes. CRT officers normally are assigned a single shift, while crime, and criminals, tend to be more flexible than the CRT’s schedule.

The end result of the department’s NOP plan will be two fold. First, the department will roll out four new geographic patrol divisions. The new divisions have been drawn using spatial geodata and crime statistics to balance out patrol levels. To achieve this, GPD discovered as part of a staffing study that they would need to increase patrol by 60 officers.

Deputy Chief Scott said that the staffing study and the NOP plan came together in a perfect storm.

“We need to police differently, but we have the raw manpower,” Scott said. “We are going to refit and retool many of the positions we have.”

Scott said that many neighborhood and Community Watch activists had expressed concern about losing their CRT officers, but he assured those present that those functions would not go away.

“Those same folks that were CRT will be in the same areas, many of them, and doing a lot of the same work,” Scott said. “But we are expanding the role of all of the officers.”

The department currently operates using 23 zones in its four divisions. There are two lieutenants assigned to each division. The new model will reduce the number of zones, but assign a lieutenant to each zone, resulting in four additional lieutenants in the field.

The move to geographic responsibility and away from shift responsibility is a major component of the plan. GPD data currently shows that officers only spend about 35 percent of their patrol time in their assigned zone.

“GPD’s current configuration limits zone integrity, increases response time for emergency calls and travel time, and does not allow the department to achieve set response standards,” is how a community newsletter explains the situation. “Without being assigned to geographic areas within a division, officers function more as teams assigned to shifts rather than as teams that have ownership over a territory.”

According to Scott, this limited the department’s ability to respond to crime trends that didn’t clock out when an officer’s shift ended.

“Under the new model “¦ we have the latitude to carve out a few parts of those resources on any shift to do that kind of work,” he said.

The realignment of the larger patrol divisions should also balance out staff resources with the overall goal of reducing response times to the most serious calls, which police refer to as Priority One calls.

The Western Division, in the current configuration, has the lowest call volume but the highest response times. The new model’s goal is an under seven minute response time to such calls, something achieved only 54 percent of the time in the Western Division. The overall success rate for the city is 67.5 percent.

The Eastern and Southern divisions had significantly higher call volumes, but a much quicker response time, up to 90 seconds sooner in some cases.

“We want to more closely align with those calls,” Scott said. “It makes us more efficient and more productive with the resources.”

The remaining goals of the NOP plan are an under 12 minute response time to Priority Two calls, giving officers up to 40 percent of their time to engage in proactive patrols, and to have one unit free per division at all times.

A stratified model of responsibility is critical to the plan, with accountability emphasized up and down the line.

Scott emphasized that the increased number of lieutenants, each responsible for a smaller geographic area, is a key component. The lieutenant will be the citizen’s point of contact in the field.

“We want a command staff member to be the person who controls that particular area,” Scott said. “We want you to have that link. Not only do they manage crime, but they manage the community groups and the community interaction. They are tasked with getting to know that area. We believe with the way it’s divided up that it is reasonable.”

Dr. Lee Hunt, manager of information services for the police department, said that once community feedback is received on the new divisions, the map data will be loaded into the department’s software and a test period will follow.

“We have to realign our records management system that supports all these operations,” Hunt said. “Right now all of our old map data, our old configurations, are in those two systems. We will still have to go through and test all of it to make sure everything is accurate and correct.”

GPD worked with a consultant from the city’s field operations department who had realigned garbage truck and snow plow routes. GPD found instances where they were not making the best use of the city’s transportation network.

By utilizing transportation and other mapping data, the new division maps also take into consideration future growth, in population and potential crime.

“That helps us analyze where we place our people and where we need to place our people,” Hunt said. “Because we now have census data available to us, we can do some predictive planning in terms of where call load may increase with population changes, or infill through multifamily and new housing developments. We are using the data now to know what we are going to be facing in five years and be able to plan for it.” !