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Jan 23

Community Oriented Policing

Posted on January 23, 2017 at 3:18 PM by Jamie Bastas

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What is Community Policing? We hear this term thrown around a lot, and in reality, every police chief will tell you it is what their agency is doing. But, there are some key characteristics of Community Oriented/Problem Solving Policing (COP/POP) that should be present for an agency to lay claim to this philosophy of policing: 1) A genuine partnership between the police and the community it serves. 2) That partnership is focused on solving problems; the solutions should be sustainable and not “band aids”. 3) The police organization must evolve from being rule-driven, with top-down leadership to being mission-driven, empowered employees who are active in the problem solving process.

When this model of policing first evolved in the 1980’s, the most prominent problem solving model suggested was called the SARA model (Scanning, Analysis, Response, Assessment). The Newport News Police was an early pioneer in using SARA and focusing on problem solving. However, like so many organizational theories and models, with changes in leadership and competing priorities, the Department drifted from some of the practices of COP/POP while still staying focused on solving problems.

Since my appointment in 2014, we are very focused on returning to COP/POP in a practical manner. Rather than require strict adherence to any one specific problem solving model, our focus is more on the relationship building needed in order to foster strong community partnerships. Once those partnerships are solid, officers and community members alike can apply a variety of problem solving techniques to improve quality of life in neighborhoods and sustain the improvements.

Doing all of this requires that our patrol officers are assigned to specific neighborhoods and not only become intimately aware of everything within their assigned areas, but also become well known and trusted within the community. This takes time, and it takes effort on the part of the officers beyond simply responding to calls for service.

Currently, we are one of many agencies across Virginia and the entire country experiencing an unusual number of police officer vacancies and a scarcity of qualified applicants. This reality has significantly detracted from our ability to practice COP/POP in its purest form….officers getting out of the cars, building trust and relationships in neighborhoods, and proactively working with residents to identify and address quality of life problems. Instead, our officers often are running from call to call, with little time in between to do foot patrols or engage in dialogue unrelated to a call for service.

It is important for our community to understand that our goal for COP/POP isn’t being met, not because we don’t desire to do it, but due to our inability to provide officers the free time they need to practice this time-proven method. With aggressive and innovative recruiting, and with YOUR help in the community (send us your best who want to make a difference!), we continue to strive for filling our vacancies and fully practicing COP/POP.

Just because we can’t meet all of our COP/POP goals doesn’t mean we haven’t adopted the philosophy. At its core, the relationship between police officers and the citizens we serve is the essence of COP/POP. Even if we’re running call to call, the manner in which we engage with citizens defines our philosophy as an agency. We know we have some history to overcome, we know we have a national narrative about police that we have to overcome, and we know that all it takes is for one officer to step away from this partnership role to create a major gap with our community. But, we believe it is worth the effort we’re making in order to fully adopt a COP/POP philosophy.

Another myth about COP/POP is that it is soft on crime. In truth, agencies that fully adopt COP/POP can be very aggressive on crime reduction. The difference from traditional policing, however, is that the police don’t fight crime alone; with COP/POP, the police and the community together get tough on crime and the results far exceed those seen in “leave it to the police to handle” places.

In 2017, as we continue to evolve our COP/POP philosophy, and fill vacancies so that we can properly staff to achieve it, we turn to you, the community, to provide that partnership piece that is so critical. The more we join hands and work together, the better a community we will all enjoy.

I welcome suggestions for future Blog posts, just send them my way at chiefsblog@nnva.gov.
Jan 17

The Newport News Police Foundation

Posted on January 17, 2017 at 10:19 AM by Jamie Bastas

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Did you know that your police department is supported by a non-profit foundation that donates both funds and equipment? The Newport News Police Foundation was founded in 2011 and has provided support ranging from sponsoring a youth summer program to purchasing innovative technologies to sending officers to unique training opportunities to supporting police families.

A visible example of the Police Foundation’s support was the early acquisition of body-worn cameras. Before the agency could propose an expensive and comprehensive strategy for the Department’s budget, the Foundation funded testing of several devices and the early roll-out of the Axon cameras now in use. From this pilot, the agency was able to get ongoing funding through traditional means, until again the Foundation stepped in at the end to help acquire the final units to fully deploy within our patrol operations. The video is invaluable as evidence in criminal cases, as well as an immediate resource to review for citizen complaints and identifying persons involved in an incident.

Canon Virginia is one of the significant Foundation partners. Canon has provided “point and shoot” digital cameras for every patrol unit, so that officers can quickly capture photographic evidence on scenes where a delay in having Crime Scene Forensic technicians could jeopardize gathering of evidence. Canon has also provided some special purpose photographic equipment, and is a willing source of subject matter expertise on photography.

One of the biggest projects ever undertaken by the Foundation is the current initiative to construct a new Police K-9 Training and Kennel facility. The former facility is partially condemned, requiring the K-9 handlers to work out of temporary trailers, and the dogs aren’t very happy with their portion even though it is not yet condemned! The new facility will provide improved kennels, a dog cleaning area, a training classroom, work space for the handlers, and of course the outside training and exercise yard that all K-9 facilities must rely on. The new site will be on 5 acres behind the City’s Brittingham-Midtown Community Center, and the Foundation is actively raising in-kind contributions and cash donations to help this become a reality for 2017.

On the human side of things, the Foundation also sponsors every significant event within the life of the Department: police academy graduations, promotional ceremonies, award ceremonies, etc. This support comes from the generosity of the Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding that has earmarked a contribution to help NNPD properly honor our employees for these noteworthy events. The Foundation has also sponsored Family Fun days for police employees’ families at various locations in our community.

While historically the Foundation has been funded through major donors, gifts of all sizes are welcome. In fact, to complete the K-9 project, the Foundation can use all the support it can get….no bones about it! For more information about the Newport News Police Foundation, visit http://www.nnpolicefoundation.org/.
Jan 12

Welcome to Chief Myers' Blog!

Posted on January 12, 2017 at 3:14 PM by Daniel Kvaternik

Happy New Year! To celebrate the arrival of 2017, we’re going to implement a new tradition here…a Chief’s Blog. This medium will provide us the chance to talk a bit about contemporary issues in policing, both nationally and locally. It will provide an unfiltered glimpse into the operations of your police department. It will help us provide factual information about events without the spin.

As we begin a new year, it may be helpful to look back at the one just completed. In 2016 we experienced 31 homicides, which is an increase from the prior two years. Sometimes folks in the media ask about the actual number of homicides, which frustrates me a great deal: what IS the acceptable number of homicides, anyway? If you don’t like 30, or 20, is 10 ok? Every single life is valuable and precious, and I reject the notion of counting homicides like tick marks on a roster. We strive to solve every case and bring justice to the offenders, and we never let go of solving a murder investigation. As a community, we should accept NO level of murder; this is what frustrates investigators when we know there are witnesses and they won’t come forward.

It is even more frustrating with the uptick in non-fatal shootings we’ve seen in 2016. It is not uncommon that a shooting victim is uncooperative with investigators. In some cases, this isn’t even the first time a victim has been shot! We are not seeking to vilify crime victims, and we don’t list the long laundry list of prior criminal offenses with some of our victims, but there is a difficult truth buried in this pattern. Many of our victims are being shot because they’ve made bad choices; engaging in drug or gun sales, stealing, running with a gang, and simply carrying and/or threatening others with a gun….these are things that can get you shot, unfortunately. We try to thoroughly analyze the story behind the crime, even with uncooperative victims and witnesses, to identify how and why it happened. This may be why as an agency, we know Newport News as a safe place to live, shop, work and recreate, because we know how often violence strikes those who put themselves at undue risk. This isn’t to say there are no random crimes or that innocent people aren’t victimized. But, before people criticize or judge our community, we wish they had more context than is normally reported in the news.

One thing I invite all readers in Newport News to consider is to come see what we do. My father had an old proverb he raised me by, “never judge a man without walking in his shoes for a mile.” Our contemporary version of that is to do a ride-along with a police officer. If you are over 18 years of age and don’t have a prior felony record, we invite you to register for a ride along. It will give you a better sense that a) your officers are hard working b) police officers are people, just like you and c) thanks to the work of your police officers, a lot of things don’t happen or don’t rise to a level that threatens the quality of life in our community. For more information about ride alongs, visit https://www.nnva.gov/385/Ride-Along-Program.

I welcome suggestions for future Blog posts, just send them my way at chiefsblog@nnva.gov.