Comments on: Column: Counting on the DDA to Fund Police? it's like being there Tue, 16 Sep 2014 04:56:38 +0000 hourly 1 By: Jack Eaton Jack Eaton Thu, 06 Jun 2013 15:28:01 +0000 Re (22) I am happy to hear that the department is projecting reduced crime for this year. The last hard data we have is for 2012 and I think it reasonable to rely on information from neutral reports. More importantly, the distinction between proactive and reactive policing is the ability to respond to a sudden, unexpected spike in crime (such as we saw last year) without delay. So for example, a string of sexual assaults can be addressed without waiting for overtime hours to be approved and before the perpetrator moves on to another community.

Re (23) I would share your skepticism of the Police Chief’s claims, if he were taking a position dramatically different from previous Police Chiefs. Police Chief Barnett Jones also warned Council that the cuts to police staffing affected the ability of the Department to provide safety services.

The number of full-time employees in the police department,including sworn officers and civilian employees, dropped from 244 in 2001 to 146 this year (that reduction includes the elimination of about a dozen dispatchers when the system combined with the County’s dispatch). We can pretend that the UM police department offsets some of that reduction, but those officers should not be responding to problems at off campus student neighborhoods or student focused businesses. There is a limit to what the UM can do about crime and crime prevention.

The professionals are telling us we are constrained in our ability to provide safety services by our reduced police staffing. Our Council identified public safety as its number one priority. We have no metric to measure the efficacy of our current staff, other than the department’s change of method from proactive to reactive due to lack of staff.

By: John Q. John Q. Thu, 06 Jun 2013 02:07:58 +0000 “What we do have is a highly qualified Police Chief gently informing us that at our current level of police staffing, we are incapable of performing proactive, community policing. We have had to revert to mere reactive policing because of the long decline in police staff.”

I know that’s the chief’s position. The City Council needs to challenge the chief to show that the resources already allocated to the police department are being used as effectively and efficiently as they can be. Adding more officers should be the last resort after all other avenues have been explored, not the knee-jerk first reaction to real or perceived increases in crime.

By: Sabra Briere Sabra Briere Wed, 05 Jun 2013 18:44:05 +0000 Re: #21: I think Mr. Eaton may have missed the fact that the numbers in that dotcom article were from 2012 – when the City faced a large increase in B&Es. From the article, “However, Hieftje expects 2013 to be another year where crime decreases. He said he meets once a week with Ann Arbor Police Chief John Seto for a briefing on crime statistics in the city.

“I’m not sure if we’ll be back to 2011 levels,” he said, adding that breaking and entering reports are down 25 to 30 percent in 2013 from the same period in 2012.

Seto backed up those numbers and said the preliminary numbers show Ann Arbor is near 2011 levels in crime.

“We have made reductions compared to 2012 in just about all the areas we track,” he said.

Looking at the last five to 10 years, the trend of crime decreasing in the city is ongoing, he said.”

I completely agree that the City should implement the technology that will provide the metrics the City Administrator should be using.

By: Jack Eaton Jack Eaton Wed, 05 Jun 2013 14:52:44 +0000 Re (19) While I agree that “Council members should be making this decision based on real numbers and real objectives”, there is no reliable data upon which to base current budget decisions. As Dave Askins clearly demonstrated in an article, the City does not measure fire response times. [link]

Similarly, Stephen Ranzini frequently notes in comments on the ann arbor dot com site that the a past police department budget included funding to establish metrics upon which to base an analysis of police services. Unfortunately, that money has not been spent to perform that task.

What we do have is a highly qualified Police Chief gently informing us that at our current level of police staffing, we are incapable of performing proactive, community policing. We have had to revert to mere reactive policing because of the long decline in police staff.

For many years the reduction in police staffing was defended with the explanation that crime was down. Now that crime is up, should we expect that our Council will increase spending on police staff? [link] (violent crime down, property crime up). Or will we now be treated to a variety of excuses why crime rates should not influence police staffing levels?

By: Vivienne Armentrout Vivienne Armentrout Wed, 05 Jun 2013 13:02:24 +0000 Re 18: if you are referring to my comment, I specifically said no donuts. That was intended as humor, not snark. I think they just used Thano’s as a break location, reasonable considering they were on bikes, not sitting in a patrol car. They were cool guys.

Most of my information about downtown police needs is anecdotal. I hardly go there any more, given problems with parking and the lack of real services. But I know there have been many calls for more enforcement from business people as well as citizens.

I think the need for more police presence in Ann Arbor needs to be based on more than crime statistics. They can be misleading. That statement would take too long to defend in this forum, so I won’t try. (More anecdotes.) But I’m glad that Jack Eaton has consistently supported a better law enforcement presence, even though I don’t live in the 4th ward, either.

By: John Q. John Q. Wed, 05 Jun 2013 02:50:09 +0000 Dave A. nailed it. Relying on “because the Chief said so” isn’t a good enough answer. Council members should be making this decision based on real numbers and real objectives. Police officers, for all the good they do, are some of the most expensive employees in the city organization. Blindly adding officers based on nothing more than a “feel good” basis isn’t good government. Is Ann Arbor even using tools like CompStat to evaluate where and how often crime is happening in the city and to deploy officers where they are needed?

By: Laurie Howland Laurie Howland Tue, 04 Jun 2013 21:07:08 +0000 @8: I’m betting that most school children wouldn’t know what a quorum was if you asked them, let alone Rober’s Rules of Order. Perhaps Council members who are meeting privately with citizens outside of council should ask those same school children about the Open Meetings Act, hmmmm?

@15: Yup!

As for me, I walk the downtown area all of the time and I do not feel like there is a need for beat cops downtown (though I’m not in the 4th ward so maybe it doesn’t count), at least not at this time. There are random pan handlers around, but there are far fewer of them than I have seen in even the recent past. Adding three cops does look quite a bit like a political box to check (see I have voted for and backed adding more police officers whether it made sense or not), not a value added decision. And as for the snarky comments about cops hanging out drinking coffee and eating dougnuts (and shame on you for those knee jerk silly remarks) could it be that there wasn’t enough actual work for them to do which is why they’re not out there at the moment?

By: Steve Bean Steve Bean Sun, 02 Jun 2013 13:24:06 +0000 @15: Cheers to that.

@16: The challenge in having a policy discussion on council is that the majority, including the mayor, don’t have policy backgrounds. In the absence of policy you get what we have. Is it politics? Dysfunction? “Who cares?” what it is. It’s not good, representative, democratic government, in spite of whatever success there’s been in certain areas.

By: Sabra Briere Sabra Briere Sat, 01 Jun 2013 17:03:40 +0000 It’s good to be corrected – and I agree with Mr. Askins on this: we need to have that policy discussion.

By: Dave Askins Dave Askins Sat, 01 Jun 2013 14:54:42 +0000 Re: [13]

“Jane Lumm’s amendment to add 2 [officers] …”

Her proposal on budget night was actually to add three.

The three officers were to be funded from a reduction to the 15th District Court budget by $270,000, which was an amount just less than the $312,000 increase (compared to the previous year’s budget). From that, I think it’s fair to conclude that the approach taken here was: “as many as we can afford.”

That’s also reflected in the resolution on the June 3 agenda. It’s true that the “whereas” clauses for that resolution describe $400,000 from the total grant expenditures. But the DDA simply doesn’t have a single “grants” line item in its budget. The way you get to the $400,000 identified in the June 3 resolution is to sum $100,000 in the TIF budget and $300,000 in the parking fund that are labeled “discretionary.” Because the DDA itself has identified the unassigned $300,000 in the parking fund as the source of funding for whatever “clean and safe” initiative it undertakes, I think it’s fair to say that this resolution essentially says: Hey, DDA, that idea you’re already mulling over with the “clean and safe” funded out of parking revenue – go ahead and do that; and, by the way, we want officers not ambassadors. The way you get to three is the same way Lumm got to three for the failed budget amendment: It’s what’s affordable.

Now for the implication that it really should be four officers that the resolution’s sponsors want to add, if they’re oriented purely to a number, that’s an idea worth debunking.

So, [13] introduces the 150 figure from former chief of police Barnett Jones. But Jones was talking about sworn officers, not total FTEs. The 146 figure cited in [13] is for total FTEs – a number greater than the number of sworn officers. So I don’t know why anyone would want to do simple math on 150 and 146 and get four. The total number of sworn officers in AAPD is closer to 120 than 146. For anyone who wants to achieve the 150 figure proposed by former chief Jones, there’s a much taller hill to climb.

So I think there’s a reasonable financial logic and rationale to three as the number. I’m less sympathetic to the public policy implications of the proposal.

What I don’t think is reasonable public policy is to assign basic government functions to the DDA. It makes no more sense to me to task the DDA for funding downtown police services than it does to task the DDA for downtown waste collection. The DDA is not supposed to be “the downtown government.” Tasking the DDA with the provision of core services sets up the DDA with the following argument: You shouldn’t force us to give Chapter 7 of the city code the clearly sensible interpretation, because you’ll be jeopardizing {police services, affordable housing, parks, CoreServiceX}. To that, people say, Yikes! and blanche at the idea of complying with the Chapter 7 language that’s already on the books.

I also think it’s unfortunate that the idea of adding police officers doesn’t take as its starting point the council’s own consensus success statements from its December 2012 retreat. Taking those success statements as a starting point would look something like this: “We’re not achieving success as a safe community as measured by these crime stats, and we’re not achieving success as a community perceived to be safe by its residents as measured by this scientific survey, and our officers have less than 25% of their time available for proactive policing as measured by the officer activity reports. But adding three officers, deployed in a manner recommended by chief John Seto, will help us achieve success as we’ve defined it.”

Instead, the idea of adding police officers appears to me to be taken as the starting point. It’s good to see the nod in the resolution given to the council’s consensus success statements – in the form of the claimed impact that adding three police officers will have. That is, the proposers of the resolution are at least incorporating the success statement language into their discussion. But I don’t see that they have included an argument that we are not already achieving success in the police services area. Do I have an argument that we are achieving success as measured by the council’s statements from the December retreat? Heck no.

And that’s why I think starting in January, it would have made perfect sense for the council as a group to say: Let’s get this rolling now. Let’s authorize now the $20,000 needed to conduct the community survey on perceptions of safety that we haven’t done in several years. Let’s insist that chief Seto make the complete rollout and debugging of the electronic officer activity tracking a priority, and ask that the council be provided with baseline proactive policing stats by some date certain.

The reason that kind of approach didn’t unfold naturally over the course of the council’s spring budget work sessions is related to the council’s dysfunction with respect these work sessions – a topic I’ll leave for a different time.

Lumm is supposed to be bringing forward a proposal for a safety services task force at the council’s second meeting in June. [This is analogous to the economic development task force – also an identified council priority – established by the council at a recent meeting.] Maybe that will get the ball rolling – so that the council as a group is eventually in a position to make statements like: “We’re not achieving success, because …” or “We’re achieving success, because …”