Blue Line


July 2, 2013  By Tom Wetzel

574 words – MR

HEAD: It takes patience to preserve peace

How many times have you been driving off duty and, upon seeing a parked patrol cruiser, either checked the speedometer or began to instinctively brake even though you were not speeding? The motoring public is no different and some will even make a point to warn other motorists by flashing their lights.

Motorists don’t know whether an officer is actually taking radar, watching for a BOLO or eating lunch but they assume he/she is engaged in traffic enforcement. Conversely, if people notice an officer sitting behind a building, they may assume, correctly or not, they are goofing off. Where we are and how much we are seen can be a factor in leading a community to believe their public servants are actively working in their mission to “protect and serve” them.

Aware of this perception, it is important to recognize and appreciate the value of stationary patrol from a community policing perspective. My own agency used to have us record our mileage as an indicator of productivity. If an officer drove a lot of miles, it could be inferred in some cases, dependent on shift and individual workload, that he or she was doing a good job of patrolling, while low mileage may be an indicator of just sitting around doing nothing and/or waiting for a call. Fortunately, good leadership knows that mileage alone is only one facet of many, if even relevant at all, to help determine whether an officer put in a full days work.

The efficient use of stationary patrol, where officers periodically position their cruiser in an area of high public visibility, should also be valued. Officers’ own initiative can be a driving force in what they do while there. For some, it may be monitoring vehicle and pedestrian traffic and be seen while for others, it may present an opportunity to engage in some type of enforcement action. Others may use it as a coffee break.

Whatever the reason, more of our customers see us on duty. That public observation may cause many reactions. Some will feel an increased sense of security, particularly if the area has a crime problem. Others may see their public servants in action and feel a sense of return on the taxes they pay for our service. Others may alter driving misbehavior as they start to see cruisers regularly parked in different areas of high traffic volume.

The benefits of stationary patrol can go beyond being near high traffic zones. Sitting near a playground can help dissuade open air gang activity or being in a school parking lot when classes let out can imprint a symbol of restraint on the minds of students going home. Officers who know their beats will recognize the places where they will be most effective in providing a stationary patrol presence and should be encouraged to develop strategies where they will get the most return on their time.

A possible impediment may be officers with “ants in their pants” who get impatient just sitting somewhere. Learning to be patient and waiting can pay dividends in time and showing personnel successes from other stationary patrols can help with buy-in for officers, particularly younger ones.

Providing more high visibility stationary patrols is a valuable component of community policing as it helps develop more confidence and trust from the public we serve. Its use should be encouraged as a patrol strategy.

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