Richmond P.D. wins 1998 IACP/ITT
Community Policing Award!
CITY OF RICHMOND
RICHMOND POLICE DEPARTMENT
HISTORY AND PROFILE
The City of Richmond, which was incorporated in 1837, is noted for the significant part it played in the history of the State of Texas. The City is located in Fort Bend County on the banks of the Brazos River in the area where Stephan F. Austin settled the first 300 colonist that he brought to Texas at the invitation of the government of Mexico. Richmond has been the home of many notables such as Mirabeau B. Lamar, the first Governor of Texas and the Father of Texas Education and Jane Long, known as the Mother of Texas. History records that after Santa Anna’s Mexican troops defeated the Texans at the Alamo, his army camped on the banks of the Brazos in Richmond on his way to San Jacinto where he was defeated by Sam Houston’s volunteer army. After Texas won its independence from Mexico and was later annexed into the United States, the city was selected as the county seat of Fort Bend County. Rice, cotton, and sugar cane farmers, along with cattle ranchers, came to Richmond for their banking and trading needs.
The City of Richmond, situated 25 miles southwest of Houston, has an estimated population of 13,000 residents. It covers a 3 ½ square mile area and has a racial breakdown of 33% White, 49% Hispanic and 18% Black. The City is divided physically, economically and psychologically by railroad tracks. The predominately white middle class population lives on the south side of the tracks and the lower economic minorities live on the north side of the tracks. The north side of the tracks was the home of “Mud Alley”, an area renown for its beer joints, gambling, prostitution and drug dealing. Richmond became known throughout southwest Texas, not only for its picturesque history, but also for its established vice district.
The City of Richmond has Mayor-Commissioner type government. Presently, the City of Richmond is governed by Hilmar Moore who has been serving as Mayor continuously since 1949. The Mayor and Commissioners serve 2 year terms, but the day to day management of the city is the responsibility of a City Manager. Chief of Police Bill Whitworth reports to the City Manager.
The Richmond Police Department consists of 28 full-time sworn employees, 12 civilian employees and 5 reserve officers. In 1997 there were 22,112 Officer initiated and citizen calls for service and 1,468 UCR Part I offense reports. The Richmond Police Department is divided into 3 Divisions; Patrol, Criminal Investigations, and Records/Communications.
ESTABLISHING COMMUNITY POLICING
IN RICHMOND, TEXAS
INTERNAL STRATEGIES AND TACTICS
The Richmond Police Department had been a typical traditional police department since its inception in 1950. As in many other police departments, it had been reactive and incident driven. Officers had little interaction with the “good” people in the community and arrests were the primary tool used to get the law enforcement job done. The focus was on law and order and Officers identified themselves as crime fighters. There was a lack of a problem solving orientation which meant Officers had to deal with the same incidents in the same areas on a continual basis. With the traditional method of law enforcement practiced for many years, the revolving door concept of the Criminal Justice System was evident on Richmond’s streets.
In 1994 the Richmond Police Department adopted a mission statement which required;
|promoting trust between the Richmond Police Department and the community,|
|working in partnership with the community to seek innovative solutions to persistent problems,|
|improving the quality of life issues in the neighborhoods.|
Since the mission statement required a sweeping, philosophical shift from the normal way of doing business, a strategic plan had to be in place to operationalize the revised mission of the Richmond Police Department. The strategic plan was both in written form and in process. The Department developed a written strategic plan to reinvent the Richmond Police Department called OPERATION S.T.A.R.R. – Strategy To Aggressively Reclaim Richmond. The written strategic plan explained how and why community policing would be implemented into the structure of the Department. It also explained the method in which community policing would be introduced to the community so as to develop and form partnerships.
The written strategic plan was distributed to all members of the Departments, sworn and civilian, key members in the community, the City Manager, the Mayor and Commissioners. The strategic plan explained why the Richmond Police Department needed to make a philosophical shift to community policing. This document was a description of where the Richmond Police Department wanted to be as an organization five years after implementation of the strategic plan.
Some of the key areas that the plan focused on included:
Training – In order to insure that everyone in the Department was on the same page, training of departmental personnel was critical in implementing community policing in Richmond. The Chief and upper management undertook the task of being change agents and facilitators to transform the Department from a reactive traditional department to a Department that embraced the philosophy of community policing. The training program consisted of management providing leadership, establishing standards, empowering employees, promoting accountability, and rewarding successes. The managers role as trainer is based on motivating and coaching Department personnel to achieve results to see that they are making a difference. Many of the Officers received formal training in community policing and problem solving through courses that are taught in-house, or in training centers that are sponsored by various agencies and the U.S. Department of Justice C.O.P.S. Office. The Richmond Police Department also has class room and field training instructors who introduce new recruits to the philosophy of community policing.
Change in Culture – The shift to community policing meant that there had to be an overhaul of the Department’s culture; from the reactive traditional approach, to the proactive policing approach. The culture of the department changed to the point that an Officer on the street is now empowered and required to form partnerships with the community to solve persistent problems. The Officer is directed by his supervisor to make decisions to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Richmond in any form possible as long as it is ethical, moral, and legal. Mistakes in judgment are tolerated as long as they are not violations of Departmental policies and procedures. The culture of the Department stresses that the Officers recognize and understand differences, and respect the values and dignity of all people. The change in the Department’s culture which emphasizes community policing is still evolving.
Evaluations – The dramatic changes that were incorporated in the culture of the Richmond Police Department to operationalize community policing is reflected in performance evaluations. Where in the past Officers were evaluated quantitatively, these performance standards do not have the significance they once had before as the Department changed to proactive and problem solving orientation. New measures, both quantitative as well as qualitative are now in place. Officers are evaluated on their performance which includes using various resources effectively, working with the community, and having a focus on improving the quality of life for all residents of Richmond.
Employee Awards and Media – In order to celebrate and reinforce the successes that Officers achieved in their community policing performance, the Richmond Police Department instituted an Officer of the Quarter recognition program for exceptional work in the Department and community. Awards are also presented annually for employee of the year, community service, rookie of the year, detective and communicator of the year. For outstanding community policing initiatives, Officers are nominated by the Department to receive the prestigious Houston area 100 Club awards, as well as other professional and civic groups. In 1997 the Department had an Officer receive the prestigious 100 Club award for his efforts in the “Turnaround Richmond” project. Awards are also presented to community members that have been working closely with the Officers to improve the quality of life in their neighborhood.
The various media, local and Houston newspapers, television, and radio, are extensively used by the Department not only to inform the public of the many community policing successes but also to give the individual Departmental members recognition for their community policing accomplishments.
FACILITATING, COMMUNICATING, AND IMPLEMENTING
COMMUNITY POLICING IN RICHMOND
Developing Partnerships with the Community – As part of our strategy, the Richmond Police Department has made a commitment to establish a relationship with the community that will break down long standing barriers, reduce community tensions, open avenues of information and provide constructive and meaningful opportunities for collaboration. Every Department member now sees that community out-reach is an important and ongoing element of their job. We aggressively seek input from the community to help set priorities and to develop and implement crime-fighting and problem-solving strategies at the neighborhood level. Our strategy has been successful because we have facilitated, communicated and implemented the community policing philosophy not only between the police and the Richmond community, but also between the various neighborhoods, businesses, churches, non-profit service providers and government agencies. The Richmond Police Department community policing partnerships have resulted in many successful initiatives which involved all departmental personnel on various programs or projects which were introduced into the community. The Department has mobilized various resources to spread the word, such as the media, civic organizations and neighboring law enforcement agencies, that we are committed to community policing to improve our response to crime and other quality of life problems in Richmond. This commitment by Departmental personnel has developed into formal as well as personal relationships and has formed strong partnerships in the private and public sectors of the community.
Some of the projects and initiatives in which the Richmond Police Department and the community are working together as partners to solve problems and prevent crime are:
|Beat Officer-Block Captain Initiative: Developing 10 geographical beats in the City of Richmond and assigning an Officer to each beat. Each officer recruited 10 Block Captains in each of their beats, resulting in 100 Block Captains|
|Conducting numerous neighborhood meetings and developing action plans resulting in the improvement of the quality of life for the residents of Richmond|
|Development of an Apartment Managers Council to reduce crime in apartment complexes|
|Received donated cellular telephones from Houston Cellular to start a citizen on cellular patrol program|
|Conducting numerous Citizen’s Police Academies|
|Initiated a bicycle patrol|
|Collaborating with the Downtown Richmond Business Association, initiating a business crime watch, and a “Pecan Festival” to raise funds for, and awareness of, the downtown business area|
|Beat Officers placing over 20 Community Crime Watch road signs in various neighborhoods and placed Business Crime Watch door decals|
|Working in an advisory capacity with area churches to form a Shalom Zone in an underprivileged areas of the city|
|Forming a “Lunch Bunch” program where Officers eat lunch with area school children|
|Conducting a “Children’s Safety Fair” with area businesses|
|Promoting and participating in annual National Night Out activities|
|Participating with area schools and city nursing homes for Mother’s Day project|
|Organizing a Thanksgiving Dinner Program for underprivileged families|
|Starting a “Santa Behind the Badge” program to help underprivileged families have toys for their children at Christmas|
|Officers participating with the local Boy Scout troops|
|Receiving the mayor’s and city commissioner’s support to renovate a historical County Jail into a new police headquarters and thereby taking a first step toward revitalizing the North Richmond area|
|Passing ordinances to enforce the removal of junk vehicles, tall grass, abandoned buildings, unsightly trailers and to close bars down at 12:00 a.m. rather than 2:00 a.m.|
|Collaborating with various Federal, State and County law enforcement agencies to help in investigating, arresting and prosecuting drug suspects in Richmond, especially in the “Mud Alley” district where 20 known career drug dealers have been convicted and sentenced in Federal Court|
|Enforcing the Texas Attorney General’s nuisance abatement program to clean up neighborhoods|
|Working with the Texas National Guard, Governors Policy Office, BFI, Sprint Landfill and Wal-Mart in the “Turn-Around Richmond” project where 25 abandoned drug houses were demolished in “Mud Alley”.|
|Raised $8000.00 in the community by selling barbecue chicken to finance the project|
|Members of the Department, community, businesses and churches and state prison inmates set aside a weekend for a “Bayou Clean-Up”, to pickup trash and cut high folage in a bayou which runs through the North Richmond area of town|
|Collaborating with the U.S. Attorney General’s Office to implement their Weed-Seed initiative in partnership with the Shalom Zone group|
|Participating in the Partnerships for Youth program to assist troubled juveniles|
It is important to note that the internal organizational changes demanded not only a different way of working together, but a change in the way we think, work and respond to the communities needs.
The implementation of community policing supports a commitment to our mission statement which articulates a vision and purpose for the Richmond Police Department. It has transformed our agency from a reactive “Law and Order” philosophy to a proactive “Community Policing” philosophy which is inclusive of a traditional policing role, while at the same time expands to bring more focus on collaboration, problem solving and partnership building with various community groups to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Richmond.
RICHMOND POLICE DEPARTMENT’S BEAT-OFFICER, BLOCK-CAPTAIN INITIATIVE: A PARTNERSHIP
TO BUILD SAFE AND CLEAN NEIGHBORHOODS
The City of Richmond being an old historical city has had social problems that are still evident today because of the city’s socio-economic differences. Because of these differences neighborhoods, in the city, have been neglected due to an apathetic attitude by local government and the community.
This attitude had been explained by saying that what ever happens on the poorer north side of the tracks is okay as long as it did not effect the more affluent south side of the city. The attitude of the Richmond community was If we keep it (gambling, prostitution, beer joints, street drug dealing) on the north side of the tracks, at least we know that we can control it.
Thus came into being the “Mud Alley” area of town, an area that residents recalled their great grandfathers talking about as being a place where you can get “anything” you wanted. Until recently, Mud Alley had the reputation throughout the Houston-Gulf Coast area that it was the place to buy drugs.
The problem for the Richmond Police Department was that Mud Alley was not the only area of the city where crimes were committed. Neighborhoods on both sides of the tracks were being effected. Drug sale activity moved further north from the Mud Alley area into the poorer neighborhoods resulting in increases in criminal activity such as homicides and armed robberies. The predominately affluent white south side of Richmond was also being affected.
The perception by Richmond residents that “crime only happens on the north side” did not match the reality. There was an increase in residential burglaries, robberies and a general fear of being a crime victim. Much of the criminal activity was a result of the drug dealing that was being tolerated by the community. Drug dealers had an attitude that they were untouchable and they knew that if they were arrested they would be on the street selling cocaine within 24 hours.
In 1984 a Houston TV news investigative reporter did a month long story on the City of Richmond and the “open drug dealings in Richmond”. It was documented by the investigative reporter that nothing was being done to stop the flow of drugs. After the expose’ the situation became progressively worse. The Police Department became a closed camp and an “us against them” attitude developed toward the community and the media. The neighborhoods, especially on the north side of the city began to experience more quality of life problems. There was an increase of abandoned vehicles, gang graffiti, overgrown weeded lots, debris in ditches, abandoned building and increased blatant drug activity. There was a general disrespect for the police department by members of the community and police personnel became suspicious of the community. The persistent question by the citizens in Richmond was “Why are the police not doing anything to close down Mud Alley?”
The Richmond Police Department trying to cope with the pressures and demands of negative public opinion became more reclusive and dysfunctional. The criminals on the street took advantage of the situation by being bold and blatant about who owned the streets and neighborhoods. The situation in Richmond became so severe that drug dealers would contact the local newspaper, go on television and place signs on major streets complaining that the Richmond Police were harassing them. These were the same major drug dealers that were being arrested on a regular basis and being released by the courts. The criminals in Richmond began to realize that there was nothing to fear from the local criminal justice system and a community that tolerated “the business as usual” criminal activity.
In 1994 the “business as usual” stance of the Richmond Police Department took a drastic move when the City Commission hired a new Police Chief. The new Chief proved himself to be a progressive police administrator in the field of community policing. He was given a mandate by the Mayor and Commissioners to make the necessary changes in the department and to do something about Mud Alley which was an embarrassment to the city.
Chief of Police A. M. Gibson, with his management staff, began to incorporate a philosophical shift in the way the police and the public defined the police officer’s role in society. This philosophical shift demanded a strategic plan for reinventing the Richmond Police Department which was the inception of OPERATION S.T.A.R.R. – Strategy To Aggressively Reclaim Richmond. The new strategy of the Richmond Police Department redefined the Officer’s role by taking the focus off efficiency and placing the focus on effectiveness.
In order to work effectively, the Beat Officer and the Block Captains hold community meetings to discuss the problems of each beat and to discuss how these problems can be solved. These meetings are held in the Officers assigned beat and usually in a Block Captain’s home or business. The announcement of the beat meeting is made by the Block Captains to their neighbors and is coordinated by the Beat Officer.
Beat communication is made by several methods: fliers, telephone, word of mouth and announcement in the local newspaper. At the Beat meetings, the Beat Officer and the Block Captains prioritize the beat’s problems and take on the responsibility of solving these problems. The Beat Officers and Block Captains work in partnership utilizing each other’s resources to address quality of life issues such as abandoned vehicles, weeded lots, loose dogs, lack of parts or street lighting. Through the Beat Officer-Block Captain initiative, organizing the neighborhood and addressing the quality of life issues, the criminal element is prevented from taking control of those same neighborhoods.
Discernible results have emerged since the implementation of the Beat Officer-Block Captain initiative: These include:
|A 30% drop in Part 1 crimes in the first quarter of 1998|
|An increase in the number of arrests of drug dealers due to more information being provided by the community,|
|There are viable signs of increased quality of life in the neighborhoods. These viable signs are reinforced by “success stories” from residents and news media. The “Turnaround Richmond” project of tearing down abandoned crack houses and the necessary fund raiser was a direct result of this initiative.|
|The Beat Officers working directly with the community to solve problems has had a significant increase in the Officers job satisfaction:|
- Beat Officers are seeing positive results from their work,
- Officers are receiving positive feedback from the community and a feeling of appreciation,
- Working in partnership with the community with increased trust has provided a better working environment.
EVALUATION OF INITIATIVE
In order to find out if the Richmond Police Departments Beat-Officer-Block Captain community policing proactive efforts made a difference in the community, the Department, in partnership with the University of Houston and the Block Captains, conducted an extensive survey.
The new strategy focused on crime prevention, by using the resources of other governmental, business and social institutions to accomplish the objective of preventing crime and improving the quality of life in Richmond. This philosophical shift into community policing recognizes that enlisting the various resources of neighborhoods, schools, churches, business, civic organizations and other governmental agencies to fight the criminal element in Richmond makes the individual Officer a much more effective crime fighter. “We Can Make A Difference” became the rallying cry for the Richmond Police Department and a slogan which each member of the Department has embraced.
One of the key ingredients of the success of Operation S.T.A.R.R. is the implementation of the Beat Officer-Block Captain initiative. The intent of the Beat Officer-Block Captain initiative is to build partnerships between the community and the police in order to reduce crime in the neighborhoods and improve the quality of life for Richmond citizens. It is the responsibility of the Beat Officer to build up their assigned beats into a cooperative, cohesive community which will enforce community standards of responsibility, honesty, decency and respect for the rights and property of others that was lacking in many of the neighborhoods in Richmond.
The Richmond Police Department, in order to operationalize the Beat Officer-Block Captain initiative, has divided the city into 10 Beats which is equal to the number of Patrol Officers.
The factors that determined what constituted a Beat were:
|Natural and man-made boundaries: river, railroad tracks, highways|
|Racial makeup of area|
|Social-economic makeup of communities|
|Business district or residential area|
|Strong or existing neighborhood identification.|
Each Beat Officer was responsible for recruiting 10 Block Captains within his or her Beat. The Block Captains only qualifications were that they be interested in working in partnership with the police department and willing to recruit other citizens to help solve problems and improve the quality of life in their communities. The Block Captain serves as a liaison between the community and the police Department. Each Block Captain is usually a self-appointed leader, or someone who feels that they have a civic duty to be involved in the community. The Richmond Police Department presently has 100 Block Captains recruited and they are at different stages of involvement in the initiative. These Block Captains include apartment managers, business people, homeowners, renters and pastors.
The purpose of the evaluation was to answer the following questions:
|What types of neighborhood problems do citizens of Richmond feel are most troubling?|
|How safe do Richmond citizens feel?|
|Do Richmond residents fear they will be crime victims?|
|What actions are Richmond residents taking to prevent crime?|
|How satisfied are Richmond residents with the performance of the Richmond Police Department?|
Methods used in the evaluation
|Information obtained through the use of written surveys:|
53 questions on the survey Both Spanish and English surveys used 800 surveys distrubted/283 returned
Results of Survey
|Most frequently reported problem: Dogs Running Loose|
|Citizens report that this is a serious to moderate problem|
|Survey respondents reported feeling moderately safe in their neighborhoods|
|Survey respondents reported that they believed it is “very likely” that they will be a victim of crime.|
|The most common crime reduction measures employed by citizens are adding outside lighting and installing extra locks on doors and windows.|
|Overall the city residents reported being satisfied with the performance of the Richmond Police Department.|
Observations made by the evaluation team were that:
|A stronger feeling of personal safety was associated with a higher degree of satisfaction|
|More positive contact with police means higher levels of satisfaction.|
CRITICAL LEARNING FACTORS
The Beat Officer-Block Captain initiative in the City of Richmond has experienced great success because of the sincere need of the Officers to increase their job satisfaction and the need to improve the quality of life in the community. Critical factors are:
|Management’s commitment to experiment and take risks in empowering their line Officers to work with the community. this commitment by management must be tempered by patience—this is an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary process.|
|Flexibility to permit non-traditional, proactive service delivery|
|Assignment of Beat Officers to beats that fit their special skills and talents|
|Permanent assignment of Beat Officers in the same beat allows for development of feeling of ownership of the beat by the Officer|
|Providing information packets by Beat Officers to Block Captains.|
|Having regular meetings, at a Block Captains home or business, regardless of the number of community member in attendance.|
|Beat Officers should provide relevant information to the Block Captains and community|
|Beat Officers should report their activities, goals and accomplishments on a monthly basis along with their calls for service and self-initiating quantitative reports|
|Beat Officers should listen to the community to find out what problems are important to them and bring in the appropriate resources to solve those problems.|
|Beat Officers should be accountable, make successes or failures part of the evaluation process|
|Both proactive and reactive models must be used by the Beat Officer. For solving community problems, responding to citizen complaints and addressing quality of life issues require a proactive approach. When handling offense calls for service a reactive approach is necessary|
|Developing respect, trust and communication with the community|
|Dedicated Officers are important to the success of the initiative. Personnel must be self-starters, who work with minimal supervision, who are creative, people oriented, and willing to make an extra effort in their work.|
|Recognizing that there will be internal and external resistance to change. Beat Officers must be trained and educated to reinforce that they are still crime fighters but, with the Beat Officer-Block Captain approach to community policing, they will be more effective crime fighters.|
The Richmond Police Department and the Richmond community have come a long way in developing a trusting and respectful partnership to work for the common goal of preventing crime and improving the quality of life. It is through the further development of this partnership that the Beat Officer-Block Captain initiative of community policing will endure into the 21st Century. Our success story in Richmond will be judged not only by our peers and citizens, but also by future generations.