Friday, June 10, 2011

Foot Patrol Project puts new officers on the streets

You already may have heard about our Foot Patrol Project that begins in August. Check out the below article and map from our latest Informant newsletter to learn how the new officers feel about taking on this task and how it's going to be scientifically studied to see whether it impacts quality of life in high-crime neighborhoods.

The Kansas City Police Department will drop 17 brand new officers on foot into the city’s most crime-ridden areas in a throw-back experiment to improve the quality of life in those neighborhoods.

The probationary officers will start the Foot Patrol Project in the beginning of August and will be assigned in pairs for 90 days to patrol two areas in Central Patrol Division and two in East Patrol Division – the divisions in which 87 percent of Kansas City’s crime takes place. The program is based on one developed by the Philadelphia, Pa., Police Department, which reduced crime in targeted areas there by 23 percent.

“My hope is we can connect to the community in a sincere way,” Probationary Officer Erin Butler said. “The ‘bad guys’ aren’t going to stop their lucrative crime because we say so. They will stop when the environment they thrive in, like these areas, refuses to tolerate them instead of being fearful of them. I hope we can empower the good people to fight back.”

KCPD chose the areas for the project by analyzing several factors, including the number of violent and property crimes, fear of crime and accessibility. The four areas selected are small – comprising 15 intersections that are approximately 1.3 to 1.5 roadway miles. Dr. Ken Novack, Chair of Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, used KCPD’s data to select four control areas, as well, to determine how much difference the project will make. The control areas are unknown to the police department.

“We’re not just doing a study,” Major Roger Lewis said. “We want to improve the quality of life for the common, decent people in those areas.”

Kansas City’s probationary officers got to meet two Philadelphia officers and a Philadelphia deputy police commissioner to discuss the program with them. One officer told them the project made him a better cop. The Philadelphia officers also told KCPD’s new officers they should prepare to walk six to seven miles a day and go through several pairs of shoes.

“Say ‘hi’ to everyone,” Philadelphia Officer Timothy Hegarty advised. “It costs nothing.”

The Board of Police Commissioners expressed concern about sending two rookie officers into such dangerous areas. But the young officers say they are ready.

“We received the best training we could at the Academy,” Probationary Officer John King said.

Probationary Officer Butler said the assignment is a little daunting, but she said her inexperience will make her more vigilant.

“I do think as new cops it will be important to respect the dangers but embrace each learning experience,” she said.

Deputy Chief Cy Ritter said the project not only will determine whether heavy foot patrols reduce crime but whether they will improve community relationships. Major Lewis also said it will be interesting to see if the project will create more skilled police.

“Five years down the road, is this cohort of officers going to be better officers?” he asked.

The Foot Patrol Project will end Nov. 1, but commanders said they hope to continue it in the future, either with future Academy classes or existing officers.

“At the end of the 90 days, there should be a decent law-abiding citizen they don’t know on a first-name basis and sat on their front porch and had iced tea with,” Major Lewis said. “Conversely, there shouldn’t be a bad guy who doesn’t know these officers on sight and dreads seeing them around the corner.”

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