Measuring What Matters Most
As a Police Chief, my job is to remain impartial. In fact, our Law Enforcement Code of Ethics asks law enforcement officers to pledge, that we “…will never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, animosities or friendships to influence [our] decisions.” Yet, like everyone else, at times I can be downright upset about things.
For example, the acts in Boston last week really disturbed me. I can’t imagine what kind of people would commit such unthinkable, irrational acts and intentionally hurt so many innocent people. It makes me angry that normal, everyday people can’t enjoy themselves without fear.
But within crisis, we find people who are willing to do what matters most – help others. In the midst of those bombings, we saw images of people rushing to aid those who were hurt, and runners who had just finished a marathon offering to donate blood. And, in the recent Texas explosion, where 14 people were lost – including 11 volunteer fire fighters who rushed to the scene to help those in need.
Helping others is what Police Officers, Firefighters, Paramedics and Dispatchers do every day. Helping others, I think, is our most noble act. It is what matters most.
As a young boy, I would often come home from school with my latest accomplishment, and while my mom always told me how proud she was of me, she would remind me that, “What we achieve isn’t as important as who we help, what we give, or how we contribute to make things better. Those,” she assured me, “are our greatest accomplishments.”
Our mission at the Ukiah Police Department (UPD) is to help others – to make Ukiah as safe as possible. To accomplish our mission, we established a strategic plan entitled, Measuring What Matters Most.
Our goal is to deliver quality police services, and to measure the delivery of these services through clearly defined goals and performance measures. One key to the planning process was obtaining broad participation from our community to define what is important in terms of safety and quality of life to the citizens of Ukiah.
As a result, we established five specific goals for the delivery of police services:
• Reducing Crime and the Fear of Crime
• Improving the Quality of Life in Our Neighborhoods
• Enhancing Community and Police Partnerships
• Developing Personnel
• Continued Accountability
For our first goal (reducing crime), I am happy to report that during the last five years our department reduced overall felony crime in Ukiah by 22 percent and reduced violent assaults – including violent gang assaults – by 45 percent. Our officers also solved 89 percent of the reported felony crimes in Ukiah, compared to the national average of only 53 percent.
We also measured other activities through a national database. Each year, the Center for Performance Management creates a report to help municipalities and counties obtain, “… accurate, fair, and comparable data about the quality and efficiency of service delivery to their citizens.” For fiscal year 2011, 67 cities participated in the report, including cities as large as Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Louisville, Kentucky, as well as smaller ones, like Ukiah.
One of the areas studied was police workload, specifically “Felony Crimes Cleared per Sworn Officer.” The City of Ukiah reported the highest workload of felony crimes per officer of the surveyed cities. And, although we had the highest number of cases per officer, we also cleared a greater percentage (89 percent) than any other city in the report.
The report indicated that the City of Ukiah spent less money to clear felony crimes, or had a lower cost per crime for policing services. As these numbers state, our police officers are some of the most effective and cost efficient officers measured in the survey.
The second goal of our strategic plan is to improve the quality of life within our neighborhoods, and this goal still requires some additional work. During the last few years, budget cuts have forced us to reduce our patrol staff by 20 percent, while demands for police services continue to increase.
Because our limited police officers spend so much time responding to high-level criminal activities, we have not been able to address the many quality of life nuisance issues that significantly impact our community.
UPD’s on-going community survey indicates that people feel less safe today than they did five years ago, and their concerns about crime have changed. While gang violence was the community’s greatest concern five years ago, today methamphetamine use, transients, and marijuana have also become significant issues.
Methamphetamine, transients, and marijuana are sometimes related. Transients come to Ukiah for a variety of reasons. Our community is
known for its generosity, transients tell us it’s easy to obtain welfare services and most transients say that the main reason they make their way to Ukiah is because of marijuana.
To reduce the number of transients in Ukiah, our department is asking the community to stop being so generous – handouts enable transients to buy drugs and alcohol. These behaviors reduce the safety of people in Ukiah and put our police officers at risk.
Another significant problem affecting the quality of life here in Ukiah is criminal activity related to those on parole and probation.
To save money, the State of California began reducing its state prison population through a program called Realignment. The Department of Corrections estimates that more than 70 percent of those in prison are involved with violent gangs, and in an effort to reduce state prison populations, it is these criminally sophisticated prisoners who are being released back to our local jails and into our communities.
As a result, the sheriff’s office has experienced a significant increase in violence inside the county jail. Our county probation officers are supervising more violent offenders, and our Ukiah police officers are dealing with more attacks on police officers. Just last year, eight Ukiah police officers were injured during violent struggles with transients and those on parole and probation.
Yet, despite the reduced number of police officers and the constant push and pull struggle for their time, what matters most is that they have significantly reduced felony crime rates, and are successfully solving crimes quickly.
Our department is extremely proud of our strategic plan because by Measuring What Matters Most, we focus our energy on who we help, what we give, and how we contribute to make things better. Those really are our greatest accomplishments.
Recently, our department provided the City Council with an annual update on our strategic plan, including the progress we’ve made and the challenges we still face. You can find the entire report at our website.
As always, our mission at UPD is simple: to make Ukiah as safe as possible. If you have any suggestions or comments about how we can improve, please feel free to call me, complete our online survey, or leave a crime tip on our website: www.ukiahpolice.com.