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Survey offers feedback to police

Ryan Sheridan

The Craig Police Department has begun integrating a planning process that will assist it in creating and implementing solutions to community and law enforcement issues identified in a recent survey.

The Craig Police Department administration met Friday with Ben Menke, a consultant who assisted the department in creating and analyzing a survey of Craig residents. A four-page survey was sent to 250 randomly chosen households in Craig this summer, and 146 surveys were returned.

From this information, Menke, who has a doctorate in XXX and has been involved in police research and training for 30 years, culled several issues that stood out as the strongest perceived problems the police needed to address.

At Friday’s meeting, the department looked at the more-opinion orientated information and also learned a process that is meant to guide them in dealing with issues the community has targeted.

The process is designed to create short-term and long-term goals to address law enforcement issues that have been identified as priorities. First, a major issue like traffic is broken down into more specific problems. Menke used speeding and speeding in certain areas in Craig as examples of challenges that make up an issue. The next step is to devise tactics that could have immediate impacts, and then create a strategy that would attempt to deal with the issue in the long term.

“When you sit down at a briefing, discuss two pressing issues with the officers then collect tactics at the next meeting and ask the officers to implement them,” Menke said. “Pick something that can be done right way, and then have something that can be worked towards, be it more money, new programs or changes.

“With the tactics and the immediate impact, you can go back to the residents and say ‘We heard you. This is what we did to deal with this.’ You have been told by the public, by your boss so to speak, what issues need to be dealt with. You also need to make public your responses to what has been said.”

This communication to the community is a necessity to continue to build a positive relationship with residents, Menke said.

To deal with speeding short term, traffic teams dedicated to patrolling areas and a traffic officer position were suggested. Long-term solutions included citywide design and traffic organization.

The process Menke demonstrated works on issues that the police can deal with directly and with the more complex issues that would require elaborate solutions, Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said.

“There are some issues that we can have an immediate impact on with traffic issues, we have a great deal of control over what happens,” he said. “With an issue like youth, while we have some impact, that is something that is going to need broader community-based solutions.”

Menke used youth issues as an example of a complex problem, and stressed that short-term solutions to problems that will require multi-department strategies are an important part of effective law enforcement.

“Your tactics can make a contribution,” he said. “With traffic you can set up programs to make an impact and make a change. In an issue such as youth, the department needs to realize it can contribute, but can’t go it alone the community as a whole will be needed. But those short-term contributions will have an impact.”

Positive, casual police interactions with community youth, neighborhood assignments for officers and awareness of how to interact with youthful offenders were short-term tactics brought to light by the planning process.That educational piece is the key lesson from the process and will be added to the department’s meetings immediately.

“A major part of community policing is problem solving, and what the community sees as a problem and what we see as a problem is not always the same thing,” Vanatta said. “This process helps us see the community issues and then break down the issues into strategy

and tactics.”


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