Report outlines changes for Northglenn PD

City releases 391 page report, schedules virtual meeting to discuss findings

Scott Taylor
staylor@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/23/20

Northglenn Police needs to shift the patrol districts and add seven patrol positions, according to a report presented to City Councilors July 22. The report, put together by national auditing …

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Report outlines changes for Northglenn PD

City releases 391 page report, schedules virtual meeting to discuss findings

Posted

Northglenn Police needs to shift the patrol districts and add seven patrol positions, according to a report presented to City Councilors July 22.

The report, put together by national auditing consultants BerryDunn, also suggests creating a citizen's oversight group to monitor diversity in the department, review department policies, procedures, hiring and officer retention and to keep watch on professional standards and internal affairs.

“This model essentially takes police agencies from being independently operated to a co-owned, community operated and collaborated organization,” Mitch Weinzetl, senior consultant with BerryDunn told City Councilors during the special virtual meeting.

The City agreed to an $8.75 million settlement in December stemming from a Dec. 2017 shooting that killed one a man and left a woman injured. The pair were accused of stealing a car. It was the largest use of force settlement in Colorado's history.

That's when the city hired the consultants to review the department's operations and write the report, mostly based on the officer's Computer Aided Dispatch records, or CAD, as well as other staffing and agency records. Those were compared to Northglenn population statistics and similar studies of other departments.

“What we did was take a deep dive into numerous operational aspects of the Police Ddepartment,” Weinzetl said. “I'd be remiss if I told you we looked under every single rock. What we did is look at the areas that require the most focus.”

The 391-page document is available in a PDF format on www.northglenn.org, the City's website. The city has posted a survey there to gather and collect community input about the report and has scheduled a virtual Town Hall meeting at 6 p.m. July 29 to take more public comments on it.

A link to view and participate in that Town Hall meeting will be posted to the city's website. A shorter executive summary of the report — containing all of the report's findings without the supporting data — will be posted there, too, once it is made available.

In need of work

The department is not broken, Weinzetl said.

“When you do a study of this nature, you have a propensity to find things that need work. It's much harder to find things where you can wave a banner and cheer about,” Weinzetl said. “But I don't want anyone to think that there are not positive things. We've seen many positive things, there is intentionality regarding working with the community and the work the department does on a daily basis is positive. So just to frame the discussion, there are recommendations. But that is not uncommon.”

Northglenn currently has 39 patrol officers, with other officers devoted to school resources, community resource and traffic.

“Patrol really is the backbone of the agency in many respects,” Weinzetl said. “It's the first point of contact, generally, for the community and the work that patrol does funnel through the organization. For that reason, it's important to optimize patrol and patrol staffing so they can most efficiently produce the work they need to produce.”

Those patrol officers spend about 70 percent of their time on the job responding to community-initiated calls, with most of those calls not involving criminal problems. Most of their time is spent doing welfare checks on residents, investigating alarms, responding to motor vehicle crashes or civil disturbances.

“That volume, based on the data we've seen and our conversations, basically prohibits their ability to do officer-initiated activities,” Weinzetl said. “We normally see a better balance between community-initiated calls and those initiated by the officers.”

Weinzetl said the report recommends hiring an additional seven people to fill those positions. He also recommends hiring two animal control officers to take those complaints off of the patrol officer's job list.

“There are certain things we don't need licensed officers to respond to — animal calls, an abandoned vehicle, a parking complaint and some of those kinds of things,” Weinzetl said. “To the extent we can use non-sworn personnel to do that, we can defray or reduce our costs for those activities. If we have the ability to use non-sworn staff for certain activities, we can reduce that work burden and have those activities accomplished in a more efficient manner.”

Busy district 1

The city is divided into four patrol districts, each with officers assigned to patrol them. Weinzetl noted that Police District 1, which roughly corresponds to Northglenn's Ward 2, accounts for most of the calls for service.

“People that are supposed to be in districts 2, 3, or 4 are pulled away from those districts to respond to calls in district 1,” Weinzetl said. “Somewhere along the way, those other districts receive less focused, less appropriate attention.”

The report calls for redrawing those districts to share the burden to put more officers in those high-demand areas more regularly, Weinzetl said.

“One way to mitigate that is to look at where your volume is and re-draw the boundaries so there is a more appropriate balance of volume and the activity can be more appropriately spread among your personnel.”

In the city's detective division, the report calls for hiring three more officers devoted to investigations.

“We find that as investigation units become overburdened, they start to assign fewer cases,” he said. “They are more apt to say 'Naa, you know what? There is really not much to go on here. Let's put our efforts into another case where we have strong, solid leads to pursue. Maybe we can come back to this case at a later time.' And in many cases, that later time never comes.”

Community Policing

Weinzetl also outlined a way to bring residents more into police operations by creating a Community Co-Production Policing board. That would be a group of city officials and Northglenn residents that could review department policies and procedures, recruiting and hiring new officers, keeping current staff, and reviewing staff training, professional standards and internal affairs.

It's an extension of community policing, a philosophy that tries to build ties between the police and the people.

“Community Policing is about building relationships and having conversations and getting input,” he said. “Co-production goes beyond that and says 'We're not only going to get your input, but we want you to sit shoulder to shoulder with us and help us make the decisions about how we prioritize policing in the community. We want you to have as much ownership of over that as we do.'”

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