by Pam Zubeck
I am announcing several organizational changes. These changes come after much deliberation over several months that included discussions with the PPA [Police Protective Association] Board, officers in lineups, and Staff. These changes are designed to enhance our ability to respond to calls for service more quickly, maintain adequate officer safety, and reduce the overall wear and tear on employees of the Patrol Operations Bureau. The individuals most directly affected have already been informed of these changes by their respective chain of command.See related PDF
It has become increasingly difficult to maintain our necessary staffing levels. Despite hiring 135 new recruit officers during the past couple of years and another 47 starting next month, we continue to struggle to keep pace with the number of retirements and resignations. While staffing challenges exist across the department, they are currently most critical in the Patrol Operations Bureau. Staffing shortages are related to a variety of outcomes including longer response times, reduced officer safety, and a variety of additional difficulties for employees (e.g. increased overtime, trouble getting days off).
I am announcing several organizational changes. These changes come after much deliberation that included discussions with the PPA Board, officers in lineups, and Staff. These changes are designed to enhance our ability to respond to calls for service more quickly, maintain adequate officer safety, and reduce the overall wear and tear on employees of the Patrol Operations Bureau. The individuals most directly affected have already been informed of these changes by their respective chain of command.
1. Effective September 18, 2016, Impact Team officers and Gang Unit officers will return to patrol sector assignments.
2. Effective January 1, 2017, officers currently assigned to traffic accident investigation within the Patrol Bureau will return to sector assignments.
3. Several alternative call response protocols will be implemented. These protocols will come out soon.
4. Modifications will be made to the types of calls that Community Service Officers are authorized to respond to (e.g. burglary investigations).
5. Effective January 1, 2017, the duties of Motor Unit officers will change. Unit members will split time between traffic enforcement duties and traffic accident investigation duties in support of the Patrol Bureau.
6. The number of citations referred to in the 2016 traffic performance goal for the Patrol Bureau will be removed; it will no longer be in effect for the remainder of this year. Traffic safety remains a top priority for me and for the community, but I understand the additional pressure a specific ticket count has put on officers.
7. Effective January 1, 2017, DUI Unit officers and their sergeant will again report administratively to the Patrol Bureau rather than to the Operations Support Bureau.
8. Specialized unit vacancies will remain unfilled until at least January 1, 2017. There will be exceptions to this general rule if the deputy chiefs and I agree that leaving a particular position vacant will have a severe negative impact on department operations.
My decision to move certain officers from their current assignments back to patrol sector assignments is in no way related to the importance, or the quality, of the work they currently do. We do not have anyone in our department performing unimportant work.
The changes outlined above are made in recognition of two key facts:
1. Patrol Bureau response to citizen generated calls for service is the most essential and time critical component of police service delivery to our community.
2. Our staffing shortages in the Patrol Bureau have reached a critical level. Officers need cover cars when they respond to potentially dangerous calls for service. And quite frankly, we aren’t meeting that need right now. My hope was we’d see a lower volume of calls as we came to the end of the summer, but that has not happened.
The changes above will result in an additional 30 positions being assigned to patrol sector responsibilities (not including supervisors). This means 20 more officers will be in Patrol this month because two positions are vacant; and another 8 in January. Additionally, there are currently 41 officers in field training who will soon be assuming independent patrol sector duties. I think these additional officers, in combination with the other changes I’ve noted, will have a significant, positive impact on patrol operations. Specifically, I want to see that we have more officers available to cover each other on calls. We will evaluate the impacts of these changes and make adjustments as necessary.
In an earlier Chief’s Corner article, I committed to work harder at communicating with all of you about decisions I make and projects we are working on. I know some of you might disagree with these changes. You might have other ideas in mind for which units should be folded back into patrol. I recognize that reasonable people can disagree about what should be on the list. When I made this decision, I did so recognizing that any decision will have downsides. I also know you may have a lot of questions about the timing of these decisions, how they were made, and why they were made.
Over the next several weeks, I intend to write a series of Chief’s Corner articles that further elaborate on the changes I’ve discussed in this article as well as the rationale behind them. I also intend to provide you with detailed information about our recent staffing and budgetary history that you may not be aware of.
I hope this information will allow you to better understand the steps we have taken to address our staffing shortages and help you put our current departmental challenges into perspective. I believe this information will also show that we have been thoughtful and diligent in our approach to the staffing difficulties facing our department. Unfortunately, these are complex issues that cannot be addressed by the mere application of simplistic formulas. I know that all of you are busy with your work, but I hope you take the time to read these upcoming articles and engage in constructive dialogue as together we continue to find creative ways to provide the best level of police service possible to our community. Thank you for what you do.
Chief Pete Carey