I had originally intended to write more broadly about public safety. But given the diverse areas involved – police, fire, EMS, and even our courts – I will confine this writing to police service in Orchard Park. I do so not because of my personal history, although that history affords me a much valued insider’s perspective, but because the policing role of public safety is consistently a top priority of every community. Earlier this year Orchard Park Police Chief Mark Pacholec and a number of officers provided the community with a well-received overview of the state of policing in Orchard Park. Two trajectories were of particular note: [1] the volume and complexity of calls for police response continues to increase, and [2] the police department will be moving further in the direction of what is called community policing.

For the past 50-60 years all police agencies have operated under the professional policing model. This model uses a military structure of command-and-control consistent with a view of the police as a protection force. Its key tactic involves maximizing police presence, visibility and rapid response to calls through the use of uniformed officers in marked cars engaging in random patrols. This represents a predominately reactive style of policing. But studies have called into question the value of random patrolling because it produces, at best, random results. Furthermore, officers spend up to ninety percent of their time tied to their patrol cars, effectively isolating them from the citizens they serve. The community’s role in this traditional model is to support the professionals by being their eyes and ears. Citizens have no real share in the policing function.

Over the course of the past three decades a new model has begun to emerge and is most certainly the wave of the future, namely, community policing. It is a model which values and emphasizes partnerships, problem-solving, accountability, and service to citizens. Collaboration and shared responsibility are its key principles – police partnering with other agencies, private and public organizations, and especially neighborhoods. Citizens and police identify crime and other problems that impact quality of life, and then jointly determine the best strategies and resources for addressing them. Under the community model, the objective is to provide some relief from random patrolling so that officers can get to know the people, problems and concerns in their assigned areas and then facilitate solutions. While many of the best practices and programs associated with the professional model fittingly remain intact within the community model, those practices are situated within the larger community goal of improving the quality of life within neighborhoods, therein reflecting an expanded and predominantly proactive style of policing. The community-policing model represents a new view of the police function, one that goes beyond “cracking down on crime.”

The promise of community-policing is that it will not only control crime, but that it will do so by identifying and ameliorating some of the conditions which may be associated with its occurrence. Although officers are presently inundated with complex and time-consuming calls for service, community engagement and attention to underlying conditions and quality of life issues should ultimately reduce the number of calls for service that are placed to police. A whole new set of managerial challenges will have to be undertaken, the bulk of which will require a new way of using the police department’s human resources. Community-policing cannot be accomplished without officers that are empowered through a shared vision, training and education, and a more participatory organizational structure and workplace environment. These are, after all, the very same fundamentals that our officers will need to accomplish in the neighborhoods they serve.

This brings us to the ultimate police service question, namely, what is indispensable to a good or, better yet, superior police department? I suggest [1] the effective reduction of crime, victimization and fear, [2] the efficient attainment of outcomes that enhance a community’s quality of life, and [3] strong community and government support. The first will always be the core of the police mission. The second, attainment of specific outcomes – not to be confused with outputs, represents a change in management focus. Whereas outputs can suggest the level of work being performed, they do not necessarily demonstrate that the work being performed is both efficient and effective in achieving the desired community outcomes. An example may be illustrative. Increased vehicle and traffic enforcement efforts and tickets (outputs) may or may not drive down the number of accidents in a community (outcomes) which, obviously, impacts quality of life. Superior police departments will strategically plan for and accomplish outcomes directly related to community quality of life.

Our final requirement – community and government support – is extremely important. Public expectations, perception and feelings about the police will determine their willingness to provision for and cooperate with them. In accord with the will of our community, in support of the community-policing model, and with insider knowledge of the caliber of its leadership and personnel, I will support and work with the Orchard Park Police Department in its efforts to be one of the most efficient and effective police forces in Western New York.

If you have any questions relating to the plan, please do not hesitate to contact me.