“Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine” – Robert C Gallagher.
If you’ve ever served any time working in Law Enforcement you’ll know that change is the only constant. Police policies and procedures are in a perpetual state of flux due to the impact of new technology, the evolution of law and evolving societal standards.
In 2008, I accepted a position in the WPS Organized Crime Unit as one of the two (2) Sergeants responsible for supervising operations and investigators in the high stakes unit. After settling into the position I quickly realized the Unit had significant operational deficiencies and was essentially set up for failure. Some of these deficiencies were;
- No defined mandate, mandate was to broad, investigators spread far to thin
- No ability to target High Level Organized Crime, respond to Street Gang Crime such as shootings, kidnappings or other serious gang related assaults or investigations.
- No ability to provide any substantial focus on Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs
- No focus or ability to gain current intelligence and impact criminal street gangs.
- No functioning Gang Expert Program.
- Intelligence component of unit significantly understaffed.
- Competing interests, conflict and investigational overlap with other units.
As a result of these concerns I submitted a memorandum up the chain of command with recommendations to initiate a significant reorganization designed to address the identified issues. The benefits of the reorganization were undeniable, the concerns expressed in the memorandum were acknowledged and the need for reorganization was supported by my Divisional Commander. Unfortunately, the power brokers with the authority to make the changes had no motivation to reorganize and operations remained “status quo.”
As I would learn, change may be constant, but Organizations like the WPS can be extremely resistant to change that’s driven from the ground floor. The WPS is much more receptive to change that’s driven from external forces like Court Cases, lawsuits, inquests or inquiries. Over time, WPS administrators adopted a liability based policing approach and appeared to have little concern for fighting crime or operational efficiencies.
Street cops called it “Limp Dick” policing, a frustrating, demoralizing approach to Law Enforcement.
The disconnect between the front lines and the Executive Branch of the Police Service had never been more apparent. The winners…..Organized Crime, Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, independent drug cells and street gangs.
Police Chief Devon Clunis recently advised the Police Board of sweeping operational changes he’s made to enhance the operational ability of several Police Units. These Units include the Organized Crime Unit and Street Crimes Unit who have been aligned to “develop long-term gang strategies and improve intelligence gathering.”
(Changes were also made to merge the Vice Unit and Missing Persons Unit to enhance investigators ability to combat human trafficking, underage prostitution and the exploitation of vulnerable persons.)
Clunis also identified a need to hire more crime analysts to assist with crime suppression. “Using data and being intelligence-led is the way to go with policing,” he said. “If we’re not utilizing that type of analysis, we’re just waiting for crime to happen.”
The changes made by Chief Clunis effectively address the majority of operational deficiencies I identified in the memorandum submitted in 2008. In the meantime, Police Executives sacrificed over five (5) years of operational effectiveness due to their lack of concern or vision.
During his remarks, Clunis indicated the changes came after he participated in twelve (12) community forums that were held across the City.
However he got there, Chief Clunis has to be commended for having the humility to put his ear to the ground and listen to the people in the trenches who are doing the heavy lifting. He also deserves credit for having the courage to implement positive change while some of those same resistant elements exist in the Police Executive.
After learning of the changes, I found myself experiencing a bitter-sweet feeling of contentment. Bitter-sweet feelings of contentment that are sure to replace the feelings of confused angst I’ve felt since penning my memorandum over five (5) years ago.
The take away for Police Executives, open your hearts, ears and minds to the people in the trenches.
Last December I wrote an article called “Laissez-faire Policing – The Real Problem.” It was a hard-hitting piece that called out the “bean counting gumbys” who’ve infiltrated key positions in the Police hierarchy. The repugnant bean counters who undermine and inhibit committed crime fighters ability to put handcuffs on the criminal miscreants who’ve infested our City.
The story ended with the sincere hope that Chief Clunis was listening.