Sunday, April 26, 2015

Douglas M. Ostling Act--passed!

Washington State now has law in place that mandates at least eight hour of crisis intervention training for all new officers going through basic training--and a two hour training course as part of annual training requirements. And the state police academy has been told to "make efforts" to give enhanced CIT training to at least 25% of patrol officers.

Bill and Joyce Ostling turned their personal tragedy into something positive for residents and police throughout the state. High praise to them, Senator Rolfes, and Representative Appleton for their support of this important legislation.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How much would you pay to change the culture of policing? How about 15k?

If you want to change policing, change the way police respond to people with behavioral health issues. Policing skills learned in the crisis intervention training context--de-escalation, communication, strategic thinking, collaboration--are exactly the skills many of us want to see our officers use more of when dealing with the general population.

So how much does it cost to change a culture? More specifically, how much does it cost to train most officers in Kitsap County in at least some basic CIT skills, and encourage more interest in this style of policing? 

In early 2014, the estimate was 333k. That's the amount the Bremerton Police Department requested to provide all officers in the county with some level of CIT training.

In late 2014, the estimate was 117k. That's the amount the County Commissioners approved to get Bremerton started on its program.

Now it's 2015 and we know the answer is far less than that. According to Poulsbo Officer Dave Shurick, who has taken the lead on CIT training for the county, this is what has been done, over the past ten months or so, with less than 16k:

-175 road deputies and officers have been trained in the 8 hour CIT course and 30 officers have received 40-hour CIT training.  

-23 Crisis Intervention Officers (CIO's) have been appointed by law enforcement agencies.

-Cencom/911 has been integrated into crisis response.  All CIO's on the road at any given time are seen on the Mobile Communication Terminal with a touch of a button.  Their train-the-trainer training is around the corner and 911 CIT will be integrated into their basic call taker/dispatcher training.

-Where there were less than full trust amongst county agencies in the past, we are now seeing multi-agency cooperation and collaboration. Representatives from Harrison Hospital, Kitsap Mental Health, NAMI and ICP sit with Crisis Intervention Officers at their meetings and discuss issues and best practices.  

Now: some of the reason so much progress has been made with so little money is because Officer Shurick--and many other officers in the CIO program--have done more with less and been extremely restrained with taxpayer money. And, of course, the CIO program should be expanded, and we have yet to give CIT training to every officer in Kitsap County. 

But the larger point remains: big changes in policing can be made with a relatively small amount of money. Culture change depends on police leadership, dedicated officers, and people outside of police departments who want to make a difference. Our thanks go out to all of them.

Getting Closer: Bainbridge Island City Council Proposes Public Safety Committee

At a study session on April 8, the Bainbridge Island City Council affirmed its commitment to police oversight. An ad hoc committee appointed to consider the topic recommended that a Public Safety Committee be established and filled by councilmembers serving on a rotating basis. 

Islanders for Collaborative Policing fully supports the proposal to create a Public Safety Committee.  We are appreciative of Council's interest in creating a forum where policing issues can be considered and problems discussed.

In the spirit of moving things forward, we would like to offer a few recommendations.

First, we believe that the City Council/Public Safety Committee should issue a clear statement regarding its purview. There appears to be some confusion about the kind of policing issues Council can and should consider under our city manager form of government. It would be useful for the PSC to clarify expectations by articulating its scope of authority.

Second, we approve the PSC’s role, as described in your proposal, for “advis(ing) the Chief of Police and the City Manager on key police issues.” To this end, we believe the PSC should:

-Conduct meetings that are open to the public and in which public comment is welcome. A key source of information about policing concerns on Bainbridge Island is from the community.

-Take advantage of access to a recognized authority on policing issues. We support the suggestion that Council utilize a representative from WASPC’s “loaned executive” program, at least on an occasional basis.

-Obtain specific information from the police department about key indicators. Chief Hamner’s 2014 recommendation includes a useful list of items that might be reviewed on an ongoing basis: specific areas of department policy, particularly in areas of high interest to the public (complaint processing, use of force, mental health response, body cameras), officer training, complaint summaries, state accreditation standards, hiring practices, community outreach programs. We also would like to see the PSC to monitor the handling of officer discipline.

-Solicit information from people whose volunteer or professional roles give them meaningful experience with the BIPD, and who may offer perspective on the department’s operations.  For instance, feedback from the Civil Service Commission, other public safety organizations, the Municipal Judge, and school district/fire department personnel might be useful to the Committee.

Finally, the PSC, as described, recommends a day of training at the BIPD for participating council members. We recommend that PSC members also spend (at least) a day with police oversight professionals to get a better understanding of their orientation.