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RP Public Safety report card

By: Katherine Minkiewicz
August 31, 2018

Rohnert Park City Manager, Darrin Jenkins, met Tuesday evening with Rohnert Park City Council members to review an impartial analysis report from the Center for Public Safety Management. Despite the report’s findings that the RP Department of Public Safety provides “Exceptional quality law enforcement,” it does mention several points that the department needs to improve upon, most notably, officer recruitment and chain of command, which council members agreed to address over time.

CPSM, which has conducted over 150 studies of public safety operations throughout the United States, found a few key takeaways based on several study areas such as department staffing, response times and workload, operational effectiveness and organizational structure effectiveness.

According to the report, the main findings of the analysis state that Rohnert Park has a relatively low crime rate compared to other Sonoma County cities and a fairly high investigation clearance rate. In other words, the rate at which violent crimes like rape, robbery and assault, are solved is high and exceeds the state and national average for solving crimes (the national average for crime clearance for rape in 2016 was only 36.5 percent and 53.3 percent for assault).

In addition, they found, “Rohnert Park has a relatively low fire incidence and low fire loss rates and is an ideal candidate for the police and fire public safety model.”

The group also reported that overall, officers were very dedicated and professional and enjoyed the sense of family within the close-knit department.

However, the report also recommended the city to consider a number of changes.

Perhaps the biggest suggestion that would have the most change, would be in creating a new lieutenant/battalion chief and deputy director role, which would serve as a check and balance for the department’s operations.

As stated in the agenda item report compiled by Jenkins, “The lieutenant/battalion chief rank would be both operational and administrative and would establish a reporting and supervision level between the sergeant deputy director. According to CPSM, this would decrease the span of control currently carried by the three commanders and could enhance reporting, decision making and checks and balances among management, supervision and field officers.”

This would mean a change in sergeant positions and would create a shift of three deputy director positions underneath the director, whomever that may be.

Another suggestion from the Washington D.C. based organization, is to rethink the department’s current policy of, “no call is too small,” an idea that is also a drain on already thin police resources.

“This can be a tremendous strain on already stretched resources,” said Victor, a former assistant chief of police and associate with CPSM who helped with Thomas Wieczorek, CPSM principal, in giving the report.

CPSM believes an online reporting system for non-emergencies, such as reporting bike thefts or break ins, would be a more streamlined approach. Instead of an officer being assigned to the case a community service officer could then follow up with the case. 

In terms of officer recruitment, CPSM says the department should not only recruit officers from the Bay Area, but also nationwide in order to expand their current recruiting model.

“Recruitment is the number one issue here,” Wieczorek said. “This is problematic all across the country, for instance Salinas has 21 police department openings and younger people don’t want to work in government.” Wieczorek, who led a talk at a Washington D.C. school, asked students if anyone wanted to work in local government and according to him, hardly anyone raised their hand.

Assistant City Manager, Don Schwartz, says the group used a variety of methods in coming up with their data and suggestions, including the use of focus groups and interviews.

“The study relied extensively on intensive interviews with personnel… and focus groups were held with a representative cross-section of employees within the department,” the report states.

CPSM also interviewed residents in the community for input and conducted admin/operational observance. 

Vice Mayor Joseph Callinan said of the report study and results that there are a lot of interesting ideas from the report for city staff to consider and he would like to collaborate more with CPSM in the future.

“I think an ongoing partnership is a great idea for us because I think having an outside opinion and view is really helpful and I look forward to going over this with Mr. Jenkins and the council to implement as much as we can, as soon as we can.”

Mayor Pam Stafford agreed, saying that the report will be a great resource for the council and city staff. She also said, “I’m glad to hear that they feel like they’re a family with city, that is a good thing to hear.

The CPSM report is an entirely separate endeavor from the current, ongoing investigation into a former RP Public Safety officer’s work in seizing copious amounts of marijuana near the Mendocino County border in an unmarked police car.

Schwartz said the CPSM report did not focus on addressing individual employees but on the department as a whole.

Earlier this year city council members authorized Jenkins to execute the review agreement with the organization in an effort to get feedback and see what areas the department needed to grow in.

Council member Gina Belforte pointed out that while the feedback is very helpful it is also nice to know that the department is doing a good job.

“To hear you say that our firefighters do an excellent job and that our public safety is doing an excellent job… I really hope this puts to rest for people who really doubt the ability of Rohnert Park Public Safety officers’ ability to capture bad guys or to put out a fire and to serve this community, because this says it right here and it is independent,” Belforte exclaimed.