A consultant’s report recommends the Durham Police Department put more officers on patrol, emphasize community policing, eliminate one of the city’s five substations and create a unit to serve public housing residents.
The 244-page report by Alexandria, Virginia-based nonprofit International Association of Chiefs of Police makes 46 recommendations.
Priority 1 recommendations should be implemented as soon as possible, the report states. Those recommendations include hiring more patrol officers, consolidating special enforcement teams and eliminating the District 5 substation, which covers downtown.
The report described the patrol division as an understaffed system, strained further by officers taking leave or time off. Officers spend most of their time responding to calls in and outside their assigned beat: 37 percent of their time versus the maximum recommended level of 30 percent, the report states. That lengthens response times and takes away time that could be used for proactive community policing.
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When the report was compiled, the Police Department had authorization for 633 positions: 512 sworn officers, including 196 patrol officers, and 121 non-sworn staff.
The report recommends adding 47 officers to the patrol division.
Other sections of the report recommend eliminating 28 positions, resulting in a net gain of 19 positions. In June, the City Council adopted a budget that added 20 more Police Department positions.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring Program recently awarded the department nearly $1.9 million to hire 15 officers.
The report described District 5 as “inefficient and inconsistent” compared to other districts’ workloads across the city. The report recommends eliminating the district and moving its patrol beats and staff to other districts and divisions.
Priority 2 recommendations include establishing a small unit to patrol and interact with residents in public housing, improving communication and engagement with District Attorney Roger Echols and focusing on youth-engagement efforts.
Priority 3 recommendations include examining recruit attrition, conducting a pay and benefits analysis and re-purposing the bike patrol unit.
City officials requested the staffing analysis more than a-year-and-a-half ago following a request from former Police Chief Jose Lopez. He asked to hire more officers, but couldn’t effectively demonstrate the difference the new hires would make, City Manager Tom Bonfield has said.
In November 2015, city officials sought to expand the analysis to include staffing and deployment. With Lopez’s forced retirement, the study would be an effective tool for the incoming chief, Bonfield said. The Police Department allocated $91,323 for the report.
Police Chief C.J. Davis, who started in June, said the report would serve as a “playbook.”
Davis said she and others have started talking about staffing, community policing and responding to community concerns. Davis said she plans to return to the council with another report outlining a department reorganization with its current resources.
“Some of the recommendations that have been made in this document sort of gave me a quick start of how we can start moving some of our folks around and utilize them in more effective ways,” she said.
The Durham Police Department is now offering new hiring incentives for both entry level Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) and Advanced Law Enforcement Training (ALET) positions.
The department is providing a one-time hiring bonus of $5,000 upon successful completion of all phases of both academy and field training, and a signed four-year commitment for both BLET and ALET applicants.
DPD is also offering a one-time relocation bonus of up to $3,000 for officers who move into the city limits of Durham.
Additionally, other incentives will include an annual clothing allowance for investigators and a shoe allowance for Uniform Patrol officers.
The department will hold an ALET academy in January 2017, the first in five years. Salaries for interested applicants who are currently North Carolina BLET-certified will range from $37,000 to $51,540.
ALET academy training will consist of Durham-specific instruction and will last eight weeks. Field training for ALET graduates will consist of two phases: a 17-week accompanied phase and a four-week independent phase.
The BLET academy, which includes additional departmental topics, lasts approximately 30 weeks. BLET field training consists of two phases: a 17-week accompanied phase and a 12-week independent phase. The next BLET academy is scheduled for February 2017.