Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

DC Public Safety Survey/Search for a new Police Chief

DC has launched a public safety survey as part of the process of selecting a new police chief. Some of the questions are poorly written but overall it's an ok survey. Here are some of my responses for qualitative questions.

About the police department's effectiveness

The survey question is poorly written, as you don't give a neutral option. I'd say that the dept. is reasonably effective, but could be a lot better, were it to have a more structural approach to addressing crime in particularly hard-hit areas. Examples would be the Community Safety Partnership in LA, which is discussed here or better approaches to dealing with people with mental health issues.

What should the department focus on?

DC's police department has more police per capita than any other city police dept. in the US, and that doesn't include the other forces present in the city (Housing Police, Park Police, Capitol Police, Uniformed Secret Service, etc.).

I worry about the constant call for more police officers when MPD has so many more police officers compared to other cities. One question you aren't asking is "better use of police officer time."

Plus, there is a big difference between "zero tolerance policing" and "broken windows policing." It's not clear from these questions that you know the difference. There is also a difference between "increasing the size of the police force" and "maintaining the size of the police force" and using the time better by sworn police officers.

What professional experience should the city be looking for in a police chief?

DC government is not known for innovation. This is true for the police dept. too. I'd like to see a police chief with a sense and inclination for innovation, e.g., programs like the Community Safety Partnership in LA, the way that the Fullerton Police Department in California has completely reformulated in response to a beating death of a homeless man by police officers, the way the High Point, NC police dept. deals with domestic abuse, the way that Boston dealt with monitoring of people on probation, ("Problem-solving probation" and "On probation, at a turning point," Boston Globe), the need for more structured approaches to CPTED and pattern crime, the connected approach of Chris Magnus, now chief in Tucson, formerly of Richmond, CA; the approaches by police departments to mental health matters in San Antonio, and Boston, etc.

Other thoughts on the police chief search

Besides what is mentioned above, I am an urban planner. There isn't a "plan" or "master plan" for the police dept. It would have been useful to create one in advance of selecting a new chief. See "State of Tennessee public safety plan as a way forward to link #BlackLivesMatters agenda with crime dampening" and "Seattle Police Department master plan is quite impressive."

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