Time Magazine had an article about former LAPD Chief Bill Bratton heading across the pond to help the government in the United Kingdom sort out the aftermath of the recent rioting that spread across the UK. Buried in the story about Bratton becoming a nascent bobby was a bit that I thought was really good.
Bratton says that when he was a young sergeant in Boston tasked with managing community relations, he was struck by how the police at outreach meetings all talked about response time and statistics, while citizens were more concerned about the prostitute on the corner, the broken window at the municipal building or the number of homeless haunting their stoops. "They wanted you to do something about the things they saw every day — their quality of life," Bratton recalls. "You have to present a face of both confidence and caring. That the public comes to know the chief of police, in my case, as someone they trust, somebody they have confidence in, not just day to day but when there is a crisis. And to do that, you can't just do it on TV or in newspapers. You've got to get out there and press the flesh."
Regardless of what you think about Bratton whether at his stint at police departments in Boston, New York City and Los Angeles, he really captured the essence of community policing and in what it takes for a community to have confidence in their police department.
I can't think of the last time that a citizen called or emailed the department complaining about our average response time or about the service rate for municipal court warrants. However, I couldn't count the number of times I've heard complaints about a relatively small, quality of life problem on their block such as loud car stereos, loose dogs or even the occasional hooker.
As a crime analyst I will tell you that boring statistical measures of performance such as response time are important…but really only internally as we try to be as efficient as possible in our mission. If we serve the public by taking care of some of these quality of life issues, they will be a lot more forgiving of us when our response time isn't quite what it should be.
What are you doing to identify and correct quality of life issues in the community you serve?