Monday, February 21, 2011

Transforming the police - Part 2

Scene from "PTO is the Answer"

The last blog was on change. A gulf exists today between two policing styles. The Back to the Future crowd want traditional roles: just the facts ma'am; answer-the-call-and-move-on; tactics and weapons. I call them Combat Cops (no slight of professional military is intended).

Combat cops live in a past long gone. They cling to a simplicity that was never there. In the 9/11 era, this style receives funding and attention. I have blogged on this HERE.

Conversely the problem-solving crowd wants critical thinkers. Emergency response is balanced with finding community partners to solve difficult crime problems. I call them the Community Cops.

Why does this matter?

Over a hundred police agencies have adopted the new police training officer program (PTO) described in the previous blog. Over the years a few agencies have dropped PTO. Sometimes they were combat cop agencies. Sometimes they were taken over by leaders sympathetic to combat cop values. In every case they offered up sneers for PTO unaware that isn’t the same as offering up a legitimate critique.

This is dangerous to community safety. Why?

A University of Illinois PTO evaluation study discovered that survey respondents who rejected PTO were worried about the "development of a soft or kind and gentle officer":

"Survey and focus group respondents reported a preference for the officer who responds to a call, prescribes guidance, and serves as report takers, not an officer who collaborates with members of the community or utilizes its resources to solve problems."


You mean like in the 1960s, the good old days of Dragnet? Or, perhaps Terminator 3: The Rise of The Machines?

Dichotomies are fictions. There are critical thinkers who retain tactical skills and combat cops who solve problems. The danger here lies in a pendulum swinging toward the latter and away from the former.

Police leaders in the video PTO is the answer, get how PTO strikes a balance. They get how powerful values (combat vs community) derail forward motion. Far too many executives don't. They cling to the past.

The Police Society for Problem Based Learning promotes PTO

Research about PTO and video testimonials isn't enough to convince Combat Cops. As Rick Shenkma says in Just How Stupid Are We? given the choice between a harsh truth and a comforting myth, most people will choose the latter.

Two of the leaders in the video have retired (Reno’s Ronald Glensor and Charlotte’s Darryl Stevens). Reno’s current Chief will be gone next month. What will happen next? Which path will the next regime follow?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Transforming the police - Part 1

Reno Gazette-Journal photo of Chief Steve Pitts

Building safer communities has many dimensions. Police leadership is one of them. I've blogged recently about one excellent example: Indian police Chief Kiran Bedi.

Here's another.

Next month, Reno Police Chief Steve Pitts retires from duty. So what! Police executives retire every day and drop off the public radar screen. Why should we care?

Unlike TV's RENO 911, the real Reno police have been progressively reforming into a community-based, problem-solving agency. A decade ago myself and Gerry Cleveland worked with Pitts (then Lieutenant) and his colleagues to create a new recruit field training program called Police Training Officer (PTO). Technical aspects of the program are described HERE.

A new video has been released called PTO is the answer. It provides testimonials from leading police executives about PTO success.

In the video, Louisville Police Chief Robert White says:

The whole premise behind policing, as far as I'm concerned, is crime prevention and the key to that is to have a relationship with the community…the PTO program with its core values, speaks to the importance of working with the community and making them part of the solution.

To provide scientific evidence, Pat Rushing at the University of Illinois is conducting a PTO Evaluation Study on the impact of PTO. Her preliminary results are remarkable.

PTO officers in her study were able to think creatively, solve problems in their community, complete their duties going beyond the basics and follow-up with members of the community. They searched for non-traditional solutions knowing they had the latitude to do so. Above all that, she writes, PTO turns out to serve as good leadership training.

Those familiar with traditional field training systems will appreciate the vast contrast between these PTO results and what is currently offered elsewhere. Since 2005, PTO has now led to a new transformation in police academy training called Police PBL: Blueprint for the 21st Century.

All good news, right? Not quite. So what's the problem? In short, fear. Specifically, fear of change. The departure of executives like Pitts leaves a vacuum too often filled by a new breed who return Back to the Future. That is dangerous.

We wish you well Steve Pitts. We just wish we didn't have to lose an ally.

Next blog: Where's the danger?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Stumble Safely! Crime maps to the rescue?

Morning sun in Washington, DC

I'm always intrigued by a trip to Washington, D.C. Inside the beltway it has remarkable sights, a successful subway system, sprawling parks, and terrific dining.

Outside the beltway, it's another city. There are wealthy and intriguing neighborhoods - mostly low crime and safe - and blighted and poor neighborhoods to the east - mostly high crime and unsafe.

Once known as Murder City USA, today Washington's crime declines echo the Great American Crime Decline in every other city since 1990s.

Still, high crime and fear remain.

In recent years police have enacted "crime emergencies" allowing the cops to double their manpower at peak times, gang intervention programs and police checkpoints. Though murders are at an all-time low, they are still 5 times the national average.

It is 2 years since the Supreme Court lifted DC's handgun ban. Yet the fear of crime persists. ABC news claims it's the affluent neighborhoods (where crime was already lowest) where gun purchases have spiked - a matter of fear over reality. It's in the poor neighborhoods (where most crime happens) where gun purchases have been dropping!

And now a cool new website - Stumble Safely - is under development in DC. Say's it's promo:

"Stumble Safely helps you find the best bars and a safe path to stumble home on. You can see some of our favorite spots on these maps …It doesn’t matter when or where you start drinking for Stumble Safely to help you."

Websites to prevent crime?

In other words, in spite of the crime declines, police tactics, and gun purchases, perhaps in the end it's everyday community folks coming up with innovative new ideas (like setting up their own websites) that can best improve safety.

Jane Jacobs, it seems, was right.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Seen and Heard: Kids in the City

A scene from Seen and Heard

Last spring I mentioned the film Radiant City, a documentary about the plight of kids in the suburbs.

I just watched another about kids in other parts of the city. The film is by Demos a UK-based think tank on social and political affairs. Their YouTube Seen and Heard says it all. Click HERE to view it.

I rarely see young people at conferences, public meetings, or workshops that I attend. When I ask why I'm met with silence. When I ask for their inclusion in a fun and engaging way, I'm usually met by the question: But this isn't for kids!

Really? Then why does so much of our planning, policing, and crime prevention work circle around them?

Demos claims over 70% of today’s adults played outside on the streets as kids. Only 21% of today’s kids do. True, they may be too obsessed with texting, cells, and other virtual places. Then again, a galaxy of creative talent builds interesting and fun adventures in that virtual space. By contrast, only a microscopic dot of creative talent goes into building equally interesting and fun places for kids in our public realm.

Young people in the public realm? Bleak stats

Says Demos: Public space is failing our younger generation. "Those responsible for making playful places find it difficult to work together and struggle to engage with children properly"

A month or so ago myself and a half dozen local residents watched a show at a nearby community high school with 20 teens and their teachers. We listened to experts talk on the environment, education, and other topics after which we took turns sharing thoughts and ideas. They had great ideas, great frustrations, and great energy.

In short, there was no lack of creative talent. All that makes me ask this: If our public space is failing our young people, shouldn't we be asking them how to fix it?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Rio and the Olympics - Designs for the Future?

Cities of the future?

Will the future look like this?

Story 1 is that the future is already here - it's just unevenly distributed and still emerging. Story 2 is a Mad Max dystopia where a new dark age returns to haunt us with religious and ideological barbarism.

I'm an optimist, so I choose more chapters from Story 1 than Story 2 (although unrest and riots in Egypt this week demonstrate how quickly the plot changes).

Sometimes large global events trigger futuristic imaginations, the Rio 2016 Olympics and 2014 FIFA Cup for example. In preparation, Brazilian police are gradually winning "pacification battles" against gangsters in the squalid, gang fortified shantytowns of Rio.

All this is preparation for some remarkable futuristic designs, including this solar tower/waterfall/landmark.

The beauty of design-the beast of favelas

The Solar CIty Tower is a design proposal and, while it's a long way from being actually built, it sure looks interesting. If chosen it will generate energy for both the Olympic city and also Rio itself after the Olympics. It makes solar energy during the day with water turbines and the surplus energy pumps sea water over the tower exterior giving the effect of a giant, beautiful waterfall. The falling water is also used by turbines to produce energy at night.

That is a fascinating future: Ingenuity, beauty, and environmental sustainability.

The proposed Solar Tower from the beaches of Rio

Public walking areas on the tower

One hopes they find equally ingenuous and sustainable solutions for the poor, gang-controlled favelas of Rio.