Planned changes to policing in Detroit

Faced with certain budget cuts and reports swirling about planned changes to policing in Detroit, Police Chief Ralph Godbee addressed the media from the lobby of the Northeast District to clarify recent changes to police department staffing.

The Northeast Precinct was chosen because it will be the first precinct to test a new staffing system that should put more sworn officers back on patrol in the city.

“What we anticipate is having minimally 100-150 additional sworn police officers available to be deployed in the field.  This is significant, we’re doing this without adding one penny to the budget by simply re-engineering the way we do business,” noted Godbee.

The precinct will be fully staffed between 8 am and 4 pm Monday through Friday starting January 9, 2012.  After 4pm, staff will be limited to a few officers there to assist citizens in an emergency.

For non-emergency concerns, like reporting vandalism or a stolen car, residents can call 313.267.4600 anytime to speak with a sworn officer who can take their full report.  Reports will still be available at the Central District once they are processed.

“We have done a disservice to our community by spreading ourselves thin, giving citizens the belief that we will respond to things that are not an emergency,” Godbee noted.

This service model is dubbed a “Virtual Precinct.” Instead of walking into a precinct, citizens call to file reports or handle non-emergencies.  It is a model that has worked well in Milwaukee noted Godbee. He and his team studied the model that Chief Dan Flynn successfully employed in Milwaukee and believes that this is a model that will be adopted by more cities struggling to become effective in their policing.

Chief Godbee anticipates that all precincts will adopt these hours after a 28 day test, giving his officers a chance to work any bugs out of the system and giving his officers the chance to fully communicate the changes to the community.

Other changes Godbee announced were centralizing investigative services and the anticipated amendments to a grant from the Department of Justice that should help retain 108 officers.  If allowed, this would let the officers be funded through the DOJ grant instead of through the city’s general fund.

While these changes are a bitter pill for many to swallow, Godbee insists they are necessary.

“I acknowledge that change is difficult but status quo will not get us where we need to go relative to being an efficient police agency,” he said.

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