Decatur police being innovative in fight against crime
By Evan Belanger
Organizational and communication innovations at the Decatur Police Department are expected to play key roles in the city’s campaign against rising crime.
But Police Chief Ken Collier says keeping his department fully staffed will be crucial for the strategies to work.
The Decatur City Council last week unanimously approved a measure that allows Collier to reorganize his administrative staff on a large scale.
By promoting select officers to new positions, Collier said, the reorganization will free top-ranking department officials from day-to-day duties, allowing them to participate in planning and crime-prevention efforts.
The reorganization is expected to change the way the department does business down to lowest ranking patrol officers.
Collier said each patrol officer will be tasked with spotting problems that “breed crime” and reporting them to the proper city department or outside agency through the chain of command.
By cooperating with other city departments and outside agencies, Collier said, the department will take a lead role in crime prevention and in improving the quality of life for Decatur residents.
For example, he said, if an officer notices a street light is out, the system will enable the department to alert the proper authorities quickly.
Collier said all officers will be accountable for problems in the areas they patrol.
“We want our guys to think about policing in a nontraditional way as part of their daily routine,” he said. “We can’t by ourselves fix all of the problems that contribute to crime in our city, but we can be a leader and make sure it gets done.”
Other problems that breed crime, according to Collier, include urban decay, vacant and abandoned buildings, and littering.
“We know we can’t allow urban decay,” he said. “It’s something that breeds criminals.”
But even with the strategy approved by the City Council, Collier admits his department’s biggest challenge is keeping a full staff of 130 officers.
14 officers short
The department is 14 officers short. Of those, three are deployed with the U.S. military forces serving overseas and another is on extended leave.
Collier said the department plans to hire 10 officers, but with training and a strenuous evaluation process, it will probably take nine to 10 months before they are on the streets.
The last time the department hired officers was Sept. 11, 2006. Collier said those officers only recently took their posts, and every officer available will be needed to ensure the new system works.
“I know this will work, but the biggest thing is for us to stay as close to fully staffed as we can,” Collier said. “We don’t want to get so short that all we’re able to do is respond to emergency calls and not be proactive.”
To help ease the strain, Collier proposes a system that allows the department to hire officers more than once a year.
He also said department officials need to work harder to ensure retention and to improve methods of attracting good candidates.
“You’ve got to be that department that everyone wants to work at,” he said.
Collier said he is not asking the City Council to increase the number of officers.
Capt. Ed Taylor was promoted to major to command the operations division.
Capt. Steve Condo was promoted to major to command the administrative division.
Lt. Chris Mathews was promoted to captain to command the patrol unit.
Lt. Vince Baer will be promoted to captain, effective Aug. 27 to administrative captain.
Lt. Nadis Carlisle will be promoted to captain effective Sept. 10 to crime-investigation department captain.
Source: Chief Kenneth Collier
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