Pillar I: Leading the Law Enforcement Organization
Law enforcement, in general, is facing the most significant challenge in 30 years. Nationally, there is a greater sense of distrust in law enforcement and an increase in the questioning of officers’ practices and tactics. These challenges need to be met with strong leadership, by informed and dedicated leaders, who champion both community connections and the importance of fundamental and adaptive police work. Trust is at the core of the collective success at making and keeping safe communities. If law enforcement does not meet and partner with community members to create an understanding of the issues law enforcement officers face and the tough choices officers must make, we will never have the trust we need to do our job. Conversely, if we do not listen to our community, we will never understand their fears, concerns, or desires.
We will build upon the collective success of our past and reintroduce programs meant to protect our communities to further insulate them from crime and disorder. We will add to previous work on programs geared towards school safety, active shooter threats, reducing gang membership, and creating law enforcement partnered programs in our schools. Happy, healthy, and safe young minds of today, will make for productive, well-balanced adults in the future.
Locally, we enjoy by an overwhelming margin, the support of the communities we serve. We must be ever vigilant, aware, and appreciative of the awesome responsibilities we have as public servants. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office will consistently engage, listen, and heed the advice of the members of our community. Conversations need to take place inside the organization as well as with the community, but, more importantly, between the agency and the community. If conversations occur within a vacuum, or in an echo chamber, there will be a disconnect that is detrimental to ensuring safer communities. Bottom line, our agency will communicate and support internal and external engagement that leads to ever increasing safety for the public we serve.
Pillar II: Combining Traditional and Modern Policing Models
Enforcing the law and keeping the peace is the core of what we do. Reactive, proactive, and preventive policing make up the three sides of the law enforcement triangle. When we engage all three sides of the triangle, and we use evidence to guide our decision making, we are at our most effective.
Reactive policing is what individuals typically think about when they envision the job of an officer. For instance: a crime occurs, law enforcement receives a call, detectives may be consulted, a suspect might be arrested, if so, a case is filed with a prosecutor’s office, and the suspect has his day in court. Although this is the bulk of what makes up the day of an officer, it takes a lot of time, costs money, and utilizes many resources. This is an area where we leave the biggest impression on our community. Most people go their whole lives without needing law enforcement services directly. When they do, we will provide excellent service, taking the time to make them feel important, letting them know their reason for calling mattered, and if they are a victim, having empathy and doing all we can to document the crime and track down the offender.
Proactive policing includes rooting out criminal activity through making contacts with individuals during pedestrian or traffic stops, conducting probation and parole searches, acting on human intelligence, and using analytics to focus efforts in certain areas of the community. Although this is an effective method for keeping communities safe, aggressive and proactive police work can alienate relationships with community members if not done so in the spirit of fairness, transparency, impartiality, and partnership.
For too long, arrest and citation statistics have been the metric used to determine an officer’s worth in many police organizations. Although important, we are falling short in not measuring other equally important metrics. We will now be particularly interested in answering and addressing the following questions: How safe do our communities feel? Do they see officers patrolling their area? Do residents, business owners, and visitors to our communities feel they can walk up and talk to our officers? Are our officers available to the community and do our officers feel connected to the community they are serving? Do they know the residents, business owners, and community leaders? Do they have the time to develop those relationships to be more effective? Again, we need to know the officers in the field are staying busy and protecting the community from those who intend to do harm, but if all we measure is negative contacts with the community, how are we ever going to have a positive relationship with them?
Crime prevention strategies include: 1) Target hardening through efforts such as CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design); 2) collaborating with businesses and residents in a manner that inspires them to be a force multiplier of safety by empowering them as the eyes and ears of our communities; and 3) conducting outreach and communicating trends through the use of traditional media and social media. We will be present and available to the communities we serve. Additionally, all members of the Sheriff’s Office will be required to focus more efforts on crime prevention, and a more well-defined emphasis on such will be established department wide.
In all three facets of policing, we must respond to public concerns in a manner that builds confidence in our agency and strengthens relationships with our community. VCSO will focus more efforts on proactive and preventive policing. By doing so, less time will be spent responding to crime and more time can be spent partnering with the communities we serve for the betterment of all.
Pillar III: Using Evidence to Guide Policing
No matter the method of policing we employ to keep our communities safe, our approach must and will be based in evidence. Using an evidence-based approach means employing empirically validated strategies to address some of the most difficult crime problems facing society today. It does not mean experimenting wildly and broadly with “good ideas” that have not been scrutinized and tested in a valid, reliable, and sensible manner. Rarely do we encounter new problems in law enforcement that cannot be related to an issue we have dealt with previously. We may, however, propose innovative and creative ways at addressing these problems. When we do this, we should utilize the scientific method and subject our proposals to rigorous study and testing in a controlled and limited manner.
In addition to trusting fundamental and foundational approaches to preventing and controlling crime, VCSO will engage academia as well as other governmental and corporate approaches in solving seemingly intractable problems. For instance, we can study how businesses engage employees or improve efficiency and process at delivering goods and services.
Pillar IV: Community Partnered Policing
The idea of Community Partnered Policing will be present in all that we do. It is a shift in attitude and approach from past programs such as Problem Oriented Policing or Community Oriented Policing which placed the law enforcer in a dominant role over a subservient population. In other words, these past efforts were based in what the police did to the community, not necessarily what they did with the community. Community Partnered Policing levels the playing field and gives all a seat at the table for shaping and informing how a law enforcement agency is organized and polices its communities. The job for partnering is not just for the head of the law enforcement agency, it is for everyone in the organization and for those in the community who choose to participate. By partnering more with the public, officers, and community members alike, will feel they are supported because of the relationships they form.
Each patrol station manager will be required to develop and implement councils that are made up of stakeholders from the community who have a vested interest and desire to make and keep safe the jurisdictions served by the station. These councils will be open to all with the sole purpose of increasing communication and collaboration between public, private, and nonprofit entities, as well as community members. Each council will be individualized to address and meet the specific needs of the community. Some stations may have more than one council based on the geographic size of their jurisdictional boundaries as well as differing needs based on community demographics. These councils will not be oversight councils, they will be partners in discussing community-wide issues that we can work on together.
The use of social media is also key. Each station will maintain their own Facebook and Instagram page, as each community has different issues and concerns. The Sheriff’s Office will post on items that affect the whole community while our individual stations will maintain a communication platform to keep their residents informed and station heads will have the authority to respond to individual concerns. Coffee with a cop, coffee with the chief, citizen academies, explorer programs, ride-a-longs, etc. will be required and regular occurrences at each station. We have nothing to hide and everything to gain by more intentionally partnering with those we serve. We are excited to share with our community what our challenges are and how we can partner with them to make our communities safer.
Pillar V: Engaging Stakeholders
When working together, we can embody the thought that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The “Defund the Police” movement has brought to light much of what we have known for a long time. There are many instances in which a law enforcement response is not needed. There are many times in which the law enforcer should be the last to be called, not the first. We will work on developing and strengthening relationships with the other county resources, non-profits, and businesses that have some responsibility or interest in being community care givers and making that information easier to navigate. We will also provide the resources to our dispatch center so they can guide callers to the proper agency or resource.
To further this point, we will no longer respond to calls that do not need a deputy. For too long, we in law enforcement have made ourselves everything to everybody, and those times have changed. Law enforcement is not the start, middle, and end to all problems. We will focus our efforts on enforcing the law and partnering with, and supporting, other agencies to deal with matters that do not, and should not, fall under law enforcement’s purview. There are just too many dynamics now that put an officer at a disadvantage and may have unnecessary and undesirable outcomes. There are many other community resources and social services that need to be called upon to help with a variety of concerns such as minors not following parental instructions or refusing to do schoolwork, subjects who are having a mental health crisis and are not a danger to others, and homelessness.
Pillar VI: Providing Secure and Humane Detention for Incarcerated Individuals
The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office has an obligation to staff and maintain a jail. Detention Services is a key component of our organization. This is where we develop our deputies by relying on many long-time employees such as Sheriff’s Service Technicians, Records Personnel, and Professional Staff who keep our facilities in excellent shape. We will work to ever improve conditions for our staff and continually develop all our employees so that our jails will be a model for the rest of the state. We shall maintain the highest professional standards for our corrections staff and commit to investing resources to enable them to excel in their assignments.
We will also provide safe, secure, and humane detention for persons lawfully entrusted to our care. We will do everything in our power to reduce recidivism among our incarcerated population through innovative programming and approaches to issues such as mental health and job training.
It is imperative that everyone understands that our most litigious division in the entire Sheriff’s Office is Detention Services. We have taken away freedoms from others and that comes with a tremendous responsibility to provide everything the law requires.
Pillar VII: Improving Outcomes for All
Through refining processes, we can improve outcomes for all. When we focus on Pillars One through Six, we have the greatest chance at having better outcomes for the individuals we serve. A strong leader who welcomes input from those he or she serves is truly doing the work of the people. Because, at its core, policing is a people business. Being comprehensive in our efforts through reactive, proactive, and preventive efforts, will lead to outcomes which are increasingly just and equitable for all who encounter the criminal justice system. We must always endeavor to utilize evidence to guide us as we serve our communities. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office will continually and thoughtfully consider new and better ways to deliver services and will never use the words. “Because it is the way we’ve always done it.” We will, however, remember there are tried and true approaches to curbing crime and improving outcomes and that we should build upon past successes. Most importantly, we will partner with all to embody the idea that one crime or one victim is one too many.