Police Department Measuring Success

Measuring Success
Posted on 12/06/2018

How Should Police Success be measured?

When considering your police Department, have you ever thought about what the ultimate measure of success would be? Defining or determining police success can be a difficult thing to do because the variables are many. Who decides if the Department is successful, me as your Chief of Police, or you as a citizen of Norwalk? Lately, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on the concept of success. As a Department, I think we are doing a pretty good job, but I do not think we have reached the pinnacle of success, yet.

When I was interviewing for the position of police chief, I was asked, how do you measure success? At the time I spoke about the need to look beyond simple outputs like the number of arrests or citations. I knew the answer was deeper than that but in the short time allowed in the interview I couldn’t find the words to really express it. The fact of the matter is success in police work is more than just performance metrics like arrests. Outcomes generated by the performance of the officers are the most comprehensive way to determine if our programs are effective. Recently, the Police Department achieved a number of worthy outcomes that reflect positively on our performance.

During 2018, the number of traffic stops completed by officers increased and the number of traffic crashes investigated decreased.  We worked harder; completed more stops and the roads were safer; resulting in fewer crashes. During this same time period, we issued more citations and warnings for failing to wear safety belts and the seatbelt usage rate in Norwalk increased. We worked harder; issued more citations and warnings and there has been an increase in safety; resulting in increased seatbelt usage. During this same timeframe, we lead an education program on traffic safety at the high school, held traffic safety poster contests with the 3rd and 4th grades and made a very public campaign for speed reduction around our schools. The outcomes of less crashes, more seatbelt usage and increased awareness are positive. 

Over the past three years, the number of contacts with citizens has increased. Traffic stops increased 187% and calls for service increased 30%. More contacts could result in more complaints against officers. But that hasn’t happened. In fact, there have only been two formal complaints filed regarding officer actions and each time the officers were exonerated. We are interacting with more people and the quality of service we provide isn’t generating complaints. This is a positive reflection of the trust the community has in our Police Department.

Earlier this year, The National Council for Home Safety and Security rated Norwalk the safest city in Iowa; a result of our on-going partnerships with the community and good old fashioned police work. Our low rate of crime is a testament to hard work and good community values. It is a great accomplishment and something to be proud of.

Our officers have been increasingly active in the community. We have created new partnerships and volunteered for more activities. The “Cops with Carts” foodraiser provided thousands of dollars of food for the Norwalk Food Pantry to feed the hungry in our county. “Front Porch Norwalk” brought neighbors and the police together in new ways. We started a Citizens Police Academy and we participate as members on more charitable boards and committees.  We also provide expertise in crime prevention to our apartment and business communities. Our community outreach efforts all appear to be helping to build a better community.

The department has become more diversified with the hiring of women and minority officers. Our efforts in recruiting to make the department more reflective of the community seem to be working.

Last winter, the department contacted approximately 20% of the victims who reported a crime to see how satisfied they were with the level of service provided. The results of these surveys indicate that 96% of respondents believe that Norwalk Police Officers treat people with respect, 100% of respondents believe that our officers make decisions fairly and 92% of respondents believe that our officers provide the same quality of service to all individuals. Our crime victims are pleased with the level of service they received.

This spring, a City sponsored citizen survey conducted by an outside contractor asked Norwalk residents how they felt about City services, including the Police Department. The results indicate that 87% of respondents are satisfied with department efforts to prevent crime, 86% of respondents are satisfied with police visibility in their neighborhoods, 99% of respondents feel safe walking in their neighborhoods during the day and 89% feel safe during the night. Based on these results, the fear of crime in Norwalk is low.

  • We are working harder in the area of traffic safety and the roads are safer
  • We are interacting with more people and doing so in a professional manner
  • Norwalk is the safest city in Iowa
  • Our community outreach initiatives are growing and are benefiting more people
  • The department is larger and more diversified
  • Crime victims feel like we are doing a good job
  • The community feels safe
  • We continue to do our part to help build a better community

I am proud of all of these achievements and the efforts of the officers. These accomplishments are all indicators of success but none of them, by themselves, is the ultimate measure of success. Together, they may be a part of ultimate success but I believe another indicator should be present to prove that we have indeed reached the top

So what is the ultimate measure of success? How will I know when we have achieved it? The residents of Norwalk are regularly asked what makes Norwalk such a great place. I’ve heard this question asked and answered numerous times. The answer is usually some combination of the schools, the small town feel and great neighbors. The general answer rarely has anything to do with the Police Department. While our accomplishments are many and our efforts certainly contribute to what makes Norwalk a great place, the Police Department doesn't automatically make a residents top three list. This tells me that we still have work to do. Because to me, the ultimate measure of success is when the Police Department; our programs, our officers, our prevention efforts, our investigations and our neighborhood patrols reach a level that is in the forefront of your minds. When you tell a stranger that the Police Department is a reason why Norwalk is awesome, I will consider our work a full success. Not because we met some arbitrary standard or increased an output of some sort. We will have reached the top because you will have said so.

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