Union County Pulse
It has been a year now since the uproar that was created by a very vocal political group who repeatedly filled the council chambers to pressure council to end all evaluation of alternative service models for police protection for the town. They harshly criticized the mayor and ramped up the volume of the erroneous “Paxton is anti- police” rhetoric that had dominated the 2009 election. Much has changed in the year hence that gives a very different perspective for many people, particularly the more discerning public.
Chief Dummett immediately assessed the operation of our department and set a course for change that has transformed police services in Stallings. It should now be evident that the evaluation was about more than saving money. I had tried repeatedly to bring matters of accountability, efficiency, and professionalism to staff and council but without appropriate response. Chief Dummett quickly made multiple changes – Changes that were clearly needed to meet acceptable standards for operation, to safeguard the town’s exposure to liability, and to save the town money.
The Department Now
One of the most striking improvements is in the effectiveness of solving crimes. In just ten months, the department’s clearance rate has increased from 8-9% to an average of 53.9%. The national average is 30%. The department was transitioned to OSSI software to allow the officers to be better connected with other law enforcement agencies. Access to the broader database helps to make arrests and solve crimes more quickly.
CALEA Standards Implemented
The department now operates under nationally accepted best practice procedures known as CALEA. CALEA is an acronym for Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. Although council has not chosen to seek certification, the standards are in place and enforced. Chief Dummett also implemented an evaluation process for job performance. Surprisingly some officers had worked for seven years without a single evaluation of job performance by superiors.
The town continues to employ 24 officers with some changes in positions. The Assistant Chief and the Community Resource Officer positions were eliminated to hire a civilian crime scene investigator and a narcotics agent. A town wide community policing model was implemented by dividing the town into four zones with specific officers assigned to each zone who will know the neighborhoods and work closely with HOAs to set up neighborhood watch programs and address crime concerns specific to those communities.
Cost Saving Measures
Chief Dummett has shown serious concern for eliminating wasteful spending practices in the department with costs savings measures as:
Revised procedures for calculation of overtime payments to correct previously inaccurate method which contributed to excess cost to the town
Changed vendors for officer uniforms reducing costs from $113 to $62 per uniform
Reduced the number of uniforms issued from 9 to 5 uniforms per officer
Replaced the practice of issuing 3 coats to officers with the purchase of one all-weather coat saving approximately $300 per officer
Installed Dyno-valves in patrol vehicles to increase gas efficiency. The savings are anticipated to cover the cost of the valves and installation in a short time.
In March of 2011 Chief Dummett recommended to council that the use of Tasers be eliminated. It was an unpopular move with some, but given the number of Taser related deaths in our region and the suits associated with those deaths, most now consider it to be a wise decision. The equipment was sold along with the 400 MHZ radios to other agencies, recouping approximately $20,000. The implementation of CALEA standards and procedures is also a critical factor in reduction of liability, so much so that insurance rates are lower for town who are awarded CALEA certification.
This is not a complete list of changes but we have come a long way and I’m very pleased with the feedback I’m getting from citizens about greater professionalism, visibility, and responsiveness to community concerns. Complaints are rare now and our citizen survey confirmed high ratings for the department. I reiterate my support of Chief Dummett and my sincere appreciation for the transparency, accountability, and integrity he has brought to the department. My thanks also go to the officers who are working diligently to meets new standards and to earn the highest level of public trust and confidence in the Stallings Police Department.
With the new culture of accountability and the improvements noted in the operation of the department, it is clear that police services should not be an issue in this year’s election. Nonetheless, some will try to make it an issue. If a candidate has nothing more to offer than a “Save the PD” agenda and maintenance of the status quo which would have precluded the many positive changes Chief Dummett has implemented, I encourage voters to look elsewhere for more qualified representation and a candidate who has a grasp on the many real issues affecting our town – a candidate who investigates all the facts of an issue before making decisions or attempting to gain political clout by dividing the town into an emotional war zone.
Lynda Paxton, Mayor