Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Asian Citizens Academy – Week Two: Operations and Communications

By Dawn Campbell

“Des Moines Police Department is a big business. Polk County Sheriff’s Office is a big business. We’re selling trust. We’re selling goodwill,” Des Moines Police Department Captain Kelly Willis told attendees of the Asian Citizens Academy.

Week two was a long session for attendees on May 6th, but they learned critical information. For the first half of the session students learned how the Des Moines Police Department and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office operate. Willis from Des Moines Police Department (DMPD) and Chief Neil Schultz from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) presented to the class. The second half focused on the communications and dispatch for both organizations.

“Public safety is a common goal for Polk County Sheriff’s Office and for the police department,” Willis explained.

Attendees listened as Willis explained the 10 hour work day patrol officers began the day before. The 10 hour shift will make the department work more efficient. Prior to this change, the department had three eight hour shifts which only covered 24 hours. Willis detailed how it was difficult for patrol officers to respond to emergency trips during shift change. Willis said, “We want to be able to respond to our community’s needs quickly. That’s hard when officers are loading their gear at the station and we need them over by Merle Hay Mall for a child choking.” Willis clearly explained that there was not a time when there were no officers on the street. There were times with the eight hour shifts, there were not that many officers on the street and those officers would take trips which may endanger themselves to serve the community.

Willis also explained how the department developed how the shifts would change. “Due to crime analysis, we know that from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., we have a larger number of police assistance calls. Because of these statistics, we made sure there are additional officers are the street.”

Schultz, who heads the field headquarters for PCSO detailed the operation overview of the sheriff’s office and specifically answered questions regarding the county’s jail system.

“At this time, we spend a lot transporting prisoners to Missouri for holding. With the new jail facility, we’ll cut costs,” explained Schultz.

When asked why we use Missouri facilities to hold prisoners, Schultz stated that Missouri state law allows private industry to run jails; whereas the State of Iowa does not allow this. “At this time it is not cost effective. We spend approximately, $4.5 to $6 million transporting and holding prisoners. Private industry charges because it is a business,” Schultz said.

The class seemed surprised, but whispers about food costs and gas prices could be heard as the class broke for a break.

The second half of the class explained the communications sections of both DMPD and PCSO.

Academy attendees were shown statistics of what types and number of calls the sheriff’s office and police department receive during a year.

Polk County Sheriff’s Office

40,207 law enforcement trips

54,192 911 calls

13,073 fire/rescue trips

5,172 warrants entered

7,008 no contact orders

10,886 criminal history checks

Des Moines Police Department

368,515 telephone calls

61,312 wireline 911 calls (also known as landline calls)

89,331 wireless 911 calls

202,087 police trips

19,394 fire/rescue trip

283,027 Lencir (this includes but is not limited to criminal history checks)

One tip given to the class by John Smith, a PCSO dispatcher and Sandy Morris from the DMPD communications section is when calling from a cell phone make sure you give your location. “Depending on your phone, GPS may work or it may not. Be patient and make sure you answer the question where are you located. It can make a difference,” explained Morris.
Part two in a series by Dawn Campbell.

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