You are the new chief of the Greenfield Police Department. After 30 years of iron-fisted control, Chief Slaughter has retired. Slaughter believed in the military model of police management and a traditional crime-fighting policing strategy. He was fully entrenched in the war on crime and ran his department like an army unit. His book of rules and regulations was a foot thick, and he demanded absolute compliance. Decisions were made in the chief’s office and passed down to the officers through layers of captains, lieutenants and sergeants. At Chief Slaughter’s retirement ceremony, the mayor slaps you on the back and says, “You’ve got some big shoes to fill”. That guy knew how to fight crime, and his officers never stepped out of line. Our crime rate was below the national average every year he was here.”
The City Council presents Slaughter the Meritorious Service Award for 30 years of crime fighting. As a student of police history you realize that most police departments battle complex social problems and seldom march off to war. You know that crime rates are minimally influenced by crime fighting and are a poor indication of policing success. You also know that traditional organizational structures and policing strategies are slow to change and often are out of sync with one another. Most of your questions to the captains about department operations have generated the same response: “Because that’s the way we’ve always done it. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?”
You decide to visit with members of the community. A homeowner tells you that Chief Slaughter’s officers do a great job of patrolling her neighborhood, but she’s worried about the future impact of the deteriorating apartment complex across the street. She realizes it’s not a police problem. The manager of a senior citizens’ residence tells you that there hasn’t been a crime reported in their neighborhood in over a year, but the residents are afraid to go out at night. He thinks it’s the rumors that spread from crime reports on the television news. The business owners in the shopping center complain that customers are being driven away by kids skateboarding in the parking lot. They understand that the police have more urgent crime problems to fight. The high school principal praises the police department’s stringent traffic enforcement before and after school. He wishes he could resolve the growing truancy problem as efficiently as the police handle traffic. None of the people you talk to is personally acquainted with a Greenfield police officer. It appears the Greenfield Police Department is trapped in the traditional mode of policing. They rely on preventive patrolling and rapid response as their primary policing strategies and seldom interact with the community. You review their mission statement and find it emphasizes the professional model of crime fighting.
1. What challenges are facing you as the new chief?
2. What type of data might be collected to address the identified problems? How do you use the data to help formulate your strategy for change? Your changes will be visible; how do you notify the community, and how do you get “buy-in” from across the entire community?
The Greenfield Police Department’s new mission statement emphasizes a community policing philosophy. The new chief has increased the authority and the responsibility of sergeants to identify and solve problems affecting the quality of life in Greenfield. You are the evening shift supervisor and have learned that the residents of the Senior Citizens Center are reluctant to venture out after dark. The center is located in a low-crime neighborhood adjacent to a public park with walking paths. Evening walks in the park used to be a popular activity for the seniors, but no one uses the park now.
The center’s owner tells you the residents are worried about all the crime they see on the news and read about in the paper. They are also concerned about thefts from their cars in the parking lot. He says rumors of criminal activity spread quickly through the center. The owner provides classes every month on how to avoid being a crime victim. He also installed new security doors and cameras. Nothing seems to work. You gather the officers on your shift to discuss the situation. They tell you there is no crime problem in the area of the center. The crime statistics support the officers. There has been one car window broken in the center’s parking lot during the last year, and a few kids have been told not to skateboard through the lot on their way to the park. An officer remarks that the kids dress rather oddly and sport some strange haircuts, but they’re good kids who stay out of trouble. Officers state that they patrol the area constantly and conduct frequent traffic enforcement on the street in front of the Center. They flash their red lights to make sure the residents see them in the area. The officers tell you the residents have exaggerated the problem.
1. Is fear reduction a police problem?
2. What are some possible causes of fear of crime at the center? How do you address concerns that are posted in social media, and what is your social media plan?