Selfless

 

Chief White Salutes OfficersIt was a rough week in Denver.

On Tuesday, officers were called to 29th and Downing Streets on a party threatening people with a knife.  When officers arrived, they used Crisis Intervention Communication Techniques to attempt to prevent the man from seriously injuring or killing the people he was threatening.  When he did not respond, in an effort to preserve his life while saving the lives of those near him, they used “less lethal” weapons.  This failed, and unfortunately an officer had to use deadly force to stop the threat and to save the lives of people in our community.

On Thursday, at one of the busiest intersections in the city, during one of the busiest times of the day, two parties began exchanging gunfire at Colfax and Broadway.  For those unfamiliar with the area, there are several parks, bus stops, the State Capitol, and hundreds of cars and pedestrians.  The suspects fled the scene, and not only were each of them quickly located and arrested; the officers were able to locate the guns they’d been firing.

Today, Denver Police Officers were called to the 2200 block of S. Irving Street on a shooting.  As officers arrived, they learned that the suspect was outside with a rifle and incendiary devices.  The man was obviously a threat to the officers and the immediate community.  As officers approached, the suspect fired a round into a propane tank he’d rigged with gunpowder – clearly intended to harm first responders.  One officer fired one shot and stopped the threat.  After a search, officers located a dead female and another female suffering from a gunshot wound.  The party from the initial call is being investigated as the suspect in those shootings.  Officers also discovered other incendiary devices in the immediate area.

Police officers abhor the loss of life.  It is contrary to who we are and the mission we judge ourselves by.  But there are times when we must use force to prevent the loss, or further loss, of life.  And preliminary indications are that these incidents fit that bill.

I want to thank the officers who responded; for making difficult decisions to protect the lives of others; for putting themselves in harm’s way to stop the deadly criminal behavior they were called to meet.

I want to thank the officers who took statements, assisted witnesses, and consoled those shaken by what had happened.  I want to thank the detectives who will diligently and faithfully investigate each case, to preserve the truth for others to review and to later use in courts of law.

I want to thank officers from across the city who covered calls outside their area so that citizens could get assistance for their issues requiring police attention.

I want to thank the 911 call takers and dispatchers who calmly directed these difficult situations.  For ambulance crews and firemen who joined in to preserve life and provide care.  For victim’s advocates, traffic control officers, and administrative support staff.

It is not possible to name them all.  But they are part of our amazing police family.  And I am proud of them.

 

You should be too.

 

Chief White

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Change – Part 1 – Executive Staff

Part I – Executive Command

When I came to Denver, there were seven levels of management (five at the executive level alone).  Although this structure allowed for numerous promotional opportunities and career advancement, it also created red-tape and reduced accountability.  Therefore, one of the first significant changes we made was to “flatten” the management of the police department.

2011

Current

Chief (1)

Chief (1)

Deputy Chief (2)

Deputy Chief (2)

Division Chief (4)

 

Commander (7)

Commander (12)

Captain (17)

Captain (14)[i]

Lieutenant

Lieutenant

Sergeant

Sergeant

We eliminated the rank of Division Chief and are eliminating the rank of Captain through attrition.

Flattening the rank structure pushed both authority and accountability to the Commander rank.  This allows important community decisions to be made at the police district level.  It also means that Commanders are held accountable for issues within their commands and communities.  Now crime prevention strategies can be quickly implemented and tailored for the unique needs of a community.

Commander Selection Process

It is very common for new executives to build their own executive staff after they begin their tenure.  This is true in sports, business, and police departments.  However, we felt that in the case of the Denver Police Department, the most critical executive positions (District Commanders) should come from a process that had substantial community involvement.  The officers they command are directly accountable for providing safety in the various communities.  We felt it was important to include the community’s voice and representation in the District Commander selection process.

We invited Denver’s City Council members to either sit on a panel, or appoint someone to sit on the panel for them, and to interview and select a group of twelve candidates they approved of as District Commanders.  Once they provided that list, I selected six Commanders from that group.   

We have now operated under the new structure for over a year.  It is much more efficient and Commanders are empowered to make decisions regarding their areas of responsibility, has resulted in some great benefits.  Officer productivity has increased substantially as a result of this and other management changes.  Violent crime is down 14% and calls for police service are down 12%.

As we begin to improve our staffing through the 110 new police positions approved by the Mayor and City Council for 2013, you will see further evidence that the new strategies are working.

Chief White


[i] The Captain rank is being eliminated through attrition.  It will be at least 40% lower by Jan 2016.

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CHANGE

RFKOn a spring Monday afternoon in 1964, US Attorney General Robert F Kennedy told the United States Conference of Mayors, “Progress is a nice word we like to use.  But change is its motivator.  And change has its enemies.”

“Bobby” Kennedy said these words exactly six months after his brother, President John F. Kennedy’s, funeral.  Four years later, while running for the Democratic nomination for president, Senator Robert Kennedy would also be shot and killed.  Change has its enemies.

I do not believe in change for the sake of change.  But I DO believe that change is necessary.  Until we work in a perfect place, where no one makes mistakes, then we must work to change and improve.

Many of you have heard that the Denver Police Department has undergone substantial change since my arrival in 2011.  That is true.  But again, these changes were implemented because they were necessary, not because I like changing things.  They are all designed to create a police department in the best position to prevent crime.  But most importantly, they are weighed against the question, “What is the right thing to do”?

Remember who we work for

On April 8, 2011, the Denver Post Editorial Board opined about the community’s desire for change in the police department and what that change should look like.  They wrote (in part):

Action in several areas is needed: The police disciplinary process must be streamlined. The city must have a strong, independent voice in the safety manager position.

That, in conjunction with a police chief who will voice clear expectations about unacceptable behavior and consequences, will go a long way toward improving the situation.

In July of 2011, Police Protective Association board member Sgt. John Bronson told the Denver Post, “People have opinions whether the choice (for the new police chief) should be inside or outside but are excited to have it be a change. There is anticipation that a new chief will bring fresh ideas.”

But the most important voice was that of the people of Denver.  And they wanted change.  They wanted a police department who was accountable to them.  One that enabled them to be a part of the decision making process.  It wasn’t just about crime, and it wasn’t about the perception of systemic brutality, it was ultimately about respect.  And respect is very important.

I can tell you that without respect, mutual respect, we cannot effectively prevent crime.  So respect is a critical component of the current changes.

And it is the right thing to do.

Denver Police – What has changed and why

In the upcoming weeks, I will be detailing the major changes that we have made.  I will explain the change, why it was needed, and the result.  As always, I appreciate your feedback.

Chief White

http://www.justice.gov/ag/rfkspeeches/1964/05-25-1964.pdf

http://www.denverpost.com/search/ci_17796859

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Employee Wellness

wellness

Wellness

Every morning I get up early and head to the gym.  People ask me why I do it?  I usually joke about the fact that some people eat to live, but I live to eat (so exercising means I can eat more of what I like)!  Actually, it is much more complicated than that.  In fact, at this point I cannot imagine NOT working out.

I think that exercise keeps me grounded.  It relieves stress and clears my mind.  There is no doubt that it is part of a “balanced” life.

Wellness is about much more than physical exercise.  It is about body yes, but also being strong in mind and soul.  Employees who are stressed out about a troubled marriage, financial difficulties, or health problems are not as productive as those who have tools to deal with life’s challenges.  Many companies have been investing in the fitness and wellness of their employees for years.  They know that balanced employees help the bottom line, and that unbalanced or sick employees are not as productive.  Police departments are no different.

DPD and Wellness

I recently asked my staff to review our department’s wellness program and to make recommendations and changes to ensure that we maintained our commitment to helping officers stay balanced.  We made a few changes, decentralized many of the functions, and spread the responsibility for wellness to numerous areas within the department (too much of the burden for our wellness function was handled by one officer – making it in unfair to him and impossible to manage effectively).

Here is a snapshot of what we are currently doing in the Denver Police Department to promote all facets of  wellness:

  • The Denver Police Foundation funded a program for all offers to receive low cost heart scan screening.  http://www.porterhospital.org/dpdheart
  • The Denver Police Department sponsors a Health Fair each Fall
  • iSatori Fitness sponsors two fitness challenges to officers every year
  • Wellness classes are available through the police training bureau each year
  • New police recruits are instructed in “Cross Fit” and coached in healthy lifestyle choices (http://youtu.be/tHeLnM00-pc)
  • The police department maintains a vibrant peer support program to assist officers with difficult life-situations
  • Officers have no-cost access to psychological services for them and their families
  • The police department recently sponsored a positive marriage program
  • The department offers a “spouses” academy for new recruits families so that they better understand the job and have realistic expectations
  • The Denver Police Officers Foundation assists numerous officers who experience a onetime financial crisis in their personal lives
  • The police department has a Chaplain’s program to ensure that spiritual services are available to officers upon request
  • The Manager of Safety’s Human Resources Bureau works with Kaiser Permanente to monitor health trends and work towards preventative programs
  • The department has a wellness rewards program which provides incentives for reaching positive goals in all areas of wellness

As you can see, we place a great emphasis on wellness and desire that our employees have every opportunity to be and remain healthy and balanced.  It is my hope that police employees take advantage of the many wellness opportunities.  In the short term, it helps the community, but in the long term, it will afford them and their family’s long and productive lives.

Chief White

 

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HEADS UP, Denver!


Pedestrian-Safety

Multi-modal Transportation

Bicyclists who ignore stop signs and stop lights are a problem in Denver.  So are cars that block bike lanes or turn in front of cyclists without yielding.  The number of pedestrians who blatantly ignore traffic signals in cross walks (sometimes even with uniformed officers standing next to them) number in the tens of thousands every day.

In the first quarter of 2013, we noticed a dramatic increase in automobile vs. pedestrian and auto vs. bicycle accidents.  In fact, auto vs. pedestrian/bicycle accidents are up 41% between January and May of 2012 compared to the same date range in 2013.  This is even more alarming when you factor in that over the same time period accidents are down 7.2% overall.

 

JAN-MAY 2012

JAN-MAY 2013

Percent Change

Auto vs Bicycle Accidents

59

122

106.80%

Auto vs Pedestrian Accidents

205

250

22.00%

TOTAL Auto vs Pedestrian or Bicycle

264

372

40.90%

Hit and Run Accidents

2,684

2,161

-19.50%

Total Accidents

9,310

8,637

-7.20%

Our Traffic Investigations Bureau detectives have looked at the issue and have discovered many of these accidents are the fault of the bicyclist or pedestrian.  In fact, up to 50% of auto vs pedestrian accidents are the pedestrian’s fault (jay-walking or disobedience to traffic signals being the most common causes).

Mayor Hancock is also concerned, and has launched a city-wide campaign to raise awareness and public education to reduce future accidents called “Head’s Up”.  You can find more information about this campaign on Facebook.

Denver desires to be a “multi-modal” city.  Where commuters walk, bike, use mass-transportation, and drive their cars within our city limits.  So it is an obligation for all of us to work together to improve safety for all commuters.

Who is the problem?

distracted-drivingWithout fail, this topic generates a huge citizen response.  Every time a message is posted on our department Facebook or Twitter page, there are thousands of views and lively discussions about who is at fault and what should be done.  The most common comment received is “Give the other guy a ticket”.  Much like the criminalization of drugs, the department has learned that it cannot “arrest” its way out of the narcotics problem, it also cannot ticket its way out of this one.  The department could issue 1,000 citations a day for the violations described and not begin to touch the problem (and, as most of you are aware, the department does not have the resources necessary to accomplish such a task).

The truth is the problem is a lack of respect.  Many drivers don’t respect bike lanes or riders, many bicyclists don’t respect traffic laws, and most pedestrians feel they can walk wherever they want – when they want.  This is a cultural issue and our entire transportation culture has to change.

texting and walkingWhat I am asking is that each of you take some time to examine your own behavior.  Whether it’s driving, riding or walking.  Do you obey traffic laws?  Do you wait at the crosswalk even when there is no traffic coming?  Do you pay close attention to cyclists when you are driving?  Have you stopped texting when walking/driving/riding?  Do you take your headphones off when walking or riding in traffic?  In short, are you treating others with respect and care?

It is my sincere hope that as more of us examine our own behavior and make a conscious effort to change it, we will see a reduction in accidents.  I also think it will make Denver a better place to live.

 

Chief White

PS If you haven’t had a chance to see them, here are our latest videos aimed at community awareness regarding this issue.

http://youtu.be/GdhPT4pH2gU 

youtu.be/WXrZx88-Qy4 

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Moving the Lines

new police car city view

How Patrol is Organized

Most police departments break areas of responsibility down to small geographic areas.  This is done to manage work load, increase accountability and allocate resources (personnel, cars, etc) most efficiently.

In Denver, the smallest geographic area (at least in police terms) is called a precinct.  Denver’s tradition has been to have one officer assigned to every precinct on each shift.  The precincts were then grouped (3-4) to create a sector which was managed by a sergeant.  The largest geographical area for police in Denver is called a district.  These are made up of two to three sectors and there are six districts in Denver.  Each police district has a police commander in charge.

After a careful analysis of the current organization, we decided to re-draw the district boundaries, consolidate precincts from 72 to 31, and place sectors under the control of a patrol lieutenant.  Let me explain what we found and why we are making this change.

Moving the Lines

Most of the current District boundaries were drawn almost 30 years ago.  They were based largely on tradition, knowledge and experience of the command staff at that time.  But a great deal has changed in Denver over the past 30 years – and our modern ability to apply high level analysis to issues allow us to create new boundaries to become more efficient and better allocate our resources.  We looked at call loads, natural geographic boundaries (like the Platte River), consolidating areas with “like crime issues” (for instance, all of East Colfax is now in one police district), and neighborhood integrity (keeping Denver neighborhoods within a police district if possible).  It was a thorough and extensive process, which utilized numerous perspectives to ensure the best possible outcome.

The new precincts will allow greater flexibility.  For instance, staffing within a precinct can now be shifted at different times of the day depending on the demands for police service. Under the old system, there was one officer per precinct per shift – no matter how demand for service changed.

Sectors will now be managed by police lieutenants who are responsible for the activity in those areas 24 hours per day.  The lieutenants report to the district commander.

Change Summary

On July 14, 2013, the police department transferred resources and adopted the newly drawn lines (click here to see a map).  Here is a summary of the changes:

  • District 1 (Northwest Denver) is expanding to include an area West of Speer Blvd and North of 6th Avenue.  It is also expanding to include all of Globeville (basically West of the Platte River and North of Lower Downtown)
  • District 2 (Northeast Denver) is expanding south to 6th Avenue (to include all of East Colfax).  However, Stapleton is moving to District 5.  District 2 is also taking part of the Five Point neighborhood (at 25th Street).
  • District 3 (Southeast Denver) is basically South of 6th Avenue (there is a small pocket north of 6th Avenue at Quebec) and expands west to the Platte River.
  • District 4 (Southwest Denver) will now be entirely on the West side of the Platte River.
  • District 5 is expanding to include the Stapleton neighborhood.

Benefits

Some examples of the benefits include:

  • Under the old lines, five Denver neighborhoods were split between police districts, now there is only one
  • District 6, the busiest police district, is shrinking dramatically which will help officers there concentrate in a smaller area with similar crime issues
  • Under the old lines, Colfax was divided in half (North side of the street in District 2 and the South side in District 3).  This was very inefficient due to the types and volume of crime on east Colfax.
  • District lieutenants and commanders may now shift resources to problem areas within the new precincts without leaving other areas of the city “unpatrolled”.
  • With lieutenants responsible for all issues within a sector 24 hours per day, there is greater accountability.

Most importantly, this is another step we have taken that will put the Denver Police Department in the best position to prevent crime.

Chief White

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Police Response Times

 

Police Response Times

Calls for police service are often like a hospital’s Emergency Room.  We have a highly trained professional group of men and women at Denver’s Combined Communications Center who answer calls for assistance, gather information, and then classify them in order of urgency.  There are numerous levels of calls, the most emergent being labeled as priority 0-3 and then the less emergent as 4-6.

When comparing January through May of 2012 to 2013, the average response times for the highest priority calls (emergencies) has increased from 13 minutes to 15 minutes.  The response times for non-emergency calls has increased from an average of 22 minutes to 27 minutes.  Obviously, in a business where seconds count – I would like to see these times improve.

However, just like a hospital’s ER, we cannot just serve people in the order they arrived.  Unfortunately, we are in a very fluid profession, where some nights there are next to no calls – and others are so busy they can’t take a break.  We have to take the most serious calls first, therefore calls involving crimes against persons take priority over property crimes.

The current situation

The police union recently wrote a letter to the Mayor stating that the new Team Policing concept (where officers work together on teams with static days off) is responsible for lengthening waits by people with non-emergency calls for police service.  While there is no disputing that wait times have increased, there is also no evidence at all to support the union’s claim.  If anything, the team concept will eventually decrease the wait time.  We know how long the wait times are and we know why it is happening.  Most important to you though, we have a plan to fix it.

I asked our analysts to study the response times issue and they were able to come back with some scientific answers as to why it is taking longer.  But the answer isn’t surprising.  The single greatest factor, which affects response times, is the number of officers in the department.  We have gone from 1,550 officers in 2008 to 1360 (not including those in training at the police academy) today.  Think of it like the lines at the grocery story – the fewer checkout lanes that are open – the fewer shoppers they can move through.  The good news is that Mayor Hancock and city leaders have already authorized the hiring of 110 police officers in 2013, and once they hit the streets we will immediately see a reduction in response times.

We have also diligently looked at positions officers hold outside the patrol function.  In 2013, we were able to identify thirty-eight of those whose duties could be performed by highly trained civilians – thus permitting us to put the officers back on the street – where they can make the biggest difference.

But after looking at the data, we are proposing to go even further.  As the budget permits, we are proposing to hire a team of seventeen civilian report writers.  People who are highly trained to take over writing about 25% of the reports that officers currently take (like non-injury accidents, petty theft, or burglary cases with no suspect information).  This will free the equivalent (in time) of nineteen officers – who can then not only get to calls quicker but focus on crime prevention.  We also hope to establish a system where these reports can be made by making an appointment so it is convenient for the citizen and the wait times are taken away altogether.

So the good news is that help is on the way and that we are looking at responsible and efficient ways to improve response times without sacrificing a focus on crime prevention.  In the mean time, please know that every call is carefully screened and we strive to respond to calls for service as quickly as possible.  I know that this can be frustrating, but I hope that citizens know we are restructuring the department so that it will not only shorten response times but decrease crime.

 

 Chief White

 

 

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Crime Reaction vs Crime Prevention

I have been a police officer for over forty years.  I have been an executive in five separate agencies (Washington DC Metropolitan Police, Washington DC Housing Police; Greensboro, NC; Louisville, KY; and Denver, CO).  As a result, I have a good understanding of what police work entails and what the police should do.  And with that, I can most assuredly say that crime prevention is the primary duty of the police.

 

But what does that mean?  Why does it matter?  And how do people on the outside know that their police are focused on preventing crime and what should police departments do in order to accomplish this?

 

Crime Prevention – vs  Crime Reaction

All police departments react to crime.  When a citizen calls 911 because their car was stolen, police officers respond.  They interact with the victim, they usually take a report, and occasionally they catch the thief and complete an investigation so that the perpetrator may be prosecuted.  That is an essential function and it will not change.  But isn’t every response to crime a bit of a failure?  Even if the suspect is caught?  This is what reaction to crime looks like.

 Because to be successful, to be a crime prevention agency, the police should have prevented the crime from ever occurring.

 How Can the Police Prevent Crime?

There is no question that one of the greatest resources in preventing crime is a patrol officer, or “beat cop”.  This highly trained professional who works in a particular neighborhood is accountable for what happens there.  A great patrol officer gets to know the people who live or work in an area.  They develop relationship and trust.  They have a personal commitment and stake in the safety of the people and property there.  They are a part of the community they serve.  I want to hear community members calling to officers by name, because they know them and are comfortable with them.  He or she is “their” officer.

Once this relationship takes hold, the people (the true eyes and ears of the police) will work with the officer to combat issues affecting their community.  They will take an active role in watching out for and reporting crime.  And this dynamic is so powerful, that criminals typically choose to conduct their business elsewhere. 

 

What Do Crime Prevention Police Models Look Like?

First and foremost, there is a clear commitment by police administration to those officers who are assigned to patrol – those who are working in the community.  In my view, the goal should be between 60-70% of a department’s resources in a patrol function.

We have worked hard to create this dynamic in Denver.  We did it by reducing the number of special units, looking for opportunities to replace jobs being done by sworn police that could be accomplished by high caliber civilian employees, and by decentralizing some investigative functions.  As we hire more officers, you will see an even greater percentage in patrol – and the result will be a reduction in crime.

Crime Prevention in Denver

We understand that in the long term, prevention not only requires great officers, working in our neighborhoods, but also connections with the citizens in the neighborhoods where they are assigned.  If we value those relationships and treat individuals with dignity and respect, regardless of their station in life – we will prevent crime and see crime rates fall as a result.  That is why our mission statement has been changed:   

To operate a police agency with a focus on preventing crime in a respectful manner, demonstrating that everyone matters.

It is my goal to redesign this police department to be in the BEST position to prevent crime.  As we move forward that will remain our focus.

 

Chief White

 

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A Bicyclists Perspective on Bike to Work Day

bike denver      Guest Column

It is a fact, riding a bike is good for the mind and good for the body.  By riding a bicycle, I am able to feel the terrain, the ups and downs, I can smell the fresh cut grass, wet concrete, and fresh food being prepared.  I can hear all that goes on around me as well, birds, the breeze, chatter, the sound of an approaching vehicle, and the sounds of my bike.  As a culture, we have so much going on around us, it can be truly deafening.  We focus on our smart-phone screens, we text, we listen to music, we check Facebook and Twitter, we are doing so much at any given time we can’t pay attention to what is most important.

As cyclists, We have a responsibility to be aware of our surroundings, we shouldn’t be disengaging ourselves from our surroundings.  As a part of the traffic flow, be it pedestrian, bicycle, or vehicle, it is our job to be vigilant.  Many of us don’t think about how much we show up (or don’t show up), many of us leave drivers questioning what our next actions will be.

My goal as a cyclist is to leave no doubt of my intentions.  This means unclipping your foot at a red light or stop sign in addition to the standard hand signals.  I have an appreciation for the skills required to balance a bike in a track stand but I also appreciate the appearance to other vehicles, it looks like you are in motion and could roll out into traffic.  If you leave a car in doubt you leave yourself and anyone else in the area at risk.  It is imperative that you signal intent on the streets; as cyclists we are part of the traffic flow and should seek to lessen our impact.  Yield to pedestrians at crosswalks, use handlebar bells to communicate your presence around blind curves or when you are coming up behind a pedestrian or even another cyclist. As cyclists in Colorado we are under the same laws as motor vehicles and we have an obligation to be courteous..

There are many tools at our disposal to make ourselves more visible on the roads, bike lights run anywhere from a few dollars into the hundreds of dollars.  My backpack and my shoes both have reflectors to the rear, I utilize a flashing red light for the rear and a good strong white light for the front.  I am a believer in brighter clothing.  On many group rides, it always surprises me how dark clothing does not show up at a distance, even in broad daylight.

We are all just trying to get from point A to point B.  by exercising common courtesy, awareness, and common sense, we can all arrive at our destinations incident free.  We cannot control what other people do or how they will react, we can only be responsible for ourselves.

 

Travis John

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Police Athletic League – 2013 Baseball Championships

PAL Championship 2013 #5

This weekend the three divisions of the Police Athletic League’s baseball program held their championship games.  

Lowrider at PAL

The Police Athletic League provides team sports for Denver youth in an effort to focus on the positive.  To provide activities and prevent crime.  It has been a success for four  decades!

PAL Championship 2013 #3

Congrats to all the athletes who participated this season and to the champions:

Bantam DIV – Redskins/gold

Intermediate DIV – Cardinals/black

Senior DIV – PAL Cardinals

 

 

PAL Championship 2013 #1PAL Championship 2013 #2PAL Championship 2013 #4

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