2015-11-07 / Editorial

A look back at the first 90 days as RPD chief

Editor’s note: As part of his dedication to community policing and making himself available to the public, new Roxboro Police Chief David Hess and The Courier-Times have partnered together to print a monthly chief’s column, which will be published the first Saturday of each month. Personians can submit questions to the chief to be answered in the next edition and the chief will provide updates on community policing initiatives, safety awareness and other happenings in the city. In this edition the chief will address his assessment of the police department during his first 90 days in office.

My tenure with the City of Roxboro began June 1, 2015. I committed to a 90-day plan of assessment to properly evaluate the internal efficiency, morale, and needs of the police department.

The plan was systematically outlined for effectiveness and exposure. The most critical portion of the plan was to build one-on-one relationships with all the employees. This venture began in May, prior to the official start date, by meeting with the lieutenants and deputy chief to outline a vision for the agency and unity of command.

Since June 1, I have held monthly formal and informal meetings with command staff (three lieutenants and the deputy chief of police), began monthly meetings with sergeants in the department and a bi-quarterly meeting with non-sworn staff, and formed a Communications Committee comprised of non-supervisory staff who meet monthly during the first 90 days, and will meet quarterly throughout the year to address concerns directly with the chief.

I have spent time with each division of the agency and worked with all members in their capacity to ensure proper understanding of the department’s multiple functions.

I have been privileged to speak at numerous civic meetings, host training sessions at the police department and meet with some of our community watch groups.

There are a few areas of improvement that need immediate attention to reduce liability to the city.

The departmental policy has numerous errors and it has not been updated since 2007. These errors do not create any legal concerns for the city, but do need to be addressed to meet more modern policing tactics with an emphasis on community policing principles and diversity within the police department.

I will be forming a research and development team to assist in revising our policy to meet national guidelines and will partner with the city attorney to review the revisions.

Second, there are concerns with fleet maintenance expenditures and vehicles with serious mechanical problems still being operated.

A comprehensive fleet analysis is being finalized to identify these concerns with a proposed cost savings solution to foster long term sustainability of assets. The report will be given to the city manager and council once it is complete.

Lastly, the command staff was tasked with reviewing the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing report with feedback on areas of improvement necessary to promote healthier community relations in Roxboro. I am encouraged by their feedback as I am reviewing their reports.

One area of concern is the legal considerations of body camera implementation that have not been factored, storage requirements of data, cost analysis and other unknown factors.

Legal concerns surrounding body cameras nationwide seem to change weekly. As a board member of the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police, we actively worked with the North Carolina Sheriff ’s Association and our state legislatures to promote a study bill for North Carolina on body camera implementation for law enforcement (H 811).

This bill will study the feasibility of equipping officers to identify costs and funding; intensity and frequency of training officers in the use of body cameras; best practices and procedures; storage requirements; the level of public access; potential constitutional or other legal issues; and other matters deemed relevant by the Training and Standards Commission.

I will be meeting with command staff, county IT, and other stakeholders as we begin to discern the most advantageous implementation procedure and policy that protects privacy rights of all parties.

While the legislatures study this bill, the police department must also carefully study these factors to ensure that we are above reproach with our desire to maintain trust in the community and transparency.

Social media presence has been improved with positive impacts that no one could have anticipated.

The department’s Facebook page is utilized weekly, sometimes daily, to promote community relations and seek the public’s assistance with investigations.

The chief ’s Twitter page (@ChiefDavidHess) has become a valuable tool and has developed other departments within local government to begin using the social media tool. Community involvement has become a point of emphasis that is building more community trust, appreciation and dedication from all of our staff.

Staff members are excited about the planning of the PAL’s program, attending community events, serving on civic boards, hosting training and giving back to the community. Organizational enrichment through proper empowerment and motivation of our officers and staff has given the employees the opportunity to take ownership and pride in the organization.

Over the course of the next 90 days I will dedicate my time to building external relationships with the district attorney, county manager, Sheriff Jones, business owners, community leaders and the public.

Through public speaking engagements and attending city functions, many of the relationships have already begun forming. I am committed to building positive relationships that will foster the city’s vision and mission. Those relationships are vital to the success and sustainable public support of police department.

Sir Robert Peel has accurately said, “Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

The Roxboro Police Department is living this motto out. When compared to the National trend and recommendations of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, the police department has exceeded those recommendations for years.

The focus of the organization under my leadership is to promote a healthy family environment that fosters positive community relations and to make the Roxboro Police Department the premier law enforcement agency in the region.

To accomplish this, individual accountability is necessary to ensure that proper guidance and mentoring is developed at all levels. An emphasis on career development of staff to prepare them for the next level and continuous changes in culture will be necessary to ensure we are providing our citizens the most professional, legal and courteous assistance.

The public demands that our officers display and possess a high moral fabric, ethical treatment of life and integrity above reproach, and that they do not discriminate against people. These are the same expectations I have of our officers who care about this community.

We will continue to improve the quality of services provided by living above reproach through a dedication of integrity, professionalism and respect.

I appreciate your continued support as we work to bring long-term stability to the police department, foster career development, maintain and build community trust and endeavor to support, maintain and defend the sanctity of life for the citizens of this wonderful community.

Have a blessed weekend.

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