Webinar presenter Peter Bellmio answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Staffing Analysis for Criminal Investigations. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: Is there a place where I can go to find these field reporting guides? You talked about how many agencies don’t cover all of the stats of policing that you recommend. What are some more resources that you can recommend to officers to use to increase or improve their skills in this area?
Peter Bellmio: Oddly enough we found that there are at state academies, I was working in California there are some tools that post. It’s really asking around to your training academies to see what are the kinds of training that already exist. There is online officer training out there that if it fits your agency, you can have your officers go through it. I know we do it from missing children on investigations of missing child cases. I think looking to your training community in your state, on your region. There may be something that you can use. In terms of field reporting guys, that’s a tough one because it is agency driven. Maybe the best analogy when you visualize this is that what I’ve seen, Calgary used to have is a pocket guide that you flipped up and you went through each time crime type. What are the major things that you have to do? I would also say that if you ask the IALEP group if you’ re involved in IALEP at all, they have a list served. They can tell you who’s got some. The treasury department also used to have a guide that you can put at the top packet of how to scrape a crime scene. I think the stuff is out there. It will take a little bit of further investigative work to find it. I wish we could get me some direct resources. In fact, what I’m going to do is you’re helping me here with my course in IALEP, I’m trying to see if we can put together a list of those resources. Thank you for that.
Audience Question: Regarding the replication of felony, robber, etcetera decision models. Do you have a template for conducting these studies at an agency so that an agency can plug in their data and run the results?
Peter Bellmio: I got all of the codebooks in the detail from that study. It’s all paper because it’s old but I think if they want to try it, you can at least start to walk through their process and we can use modern tools to do this. I can see you putting this into any of the analytical you know, the iTools. If anybody wants that, Chris can I upload that additional handout?
Chris: Yeah if you send me those handouts we’ll make sure that we get those to the course page.
Peter Bellmio: It’s in the public domain. It took a heck of a job to find it because it was deep down in (indiscernible 1:00:17) stuff. Yes, it has all the codes they use. I’ll do that.
Audience Question: We’re trying to emphasize that every contact with a citizen is an intelligence gathering opportunity. We’ve certainly heard something similar here at Justice Clearinghouse. Do you have any strategy on convincing line personnel that their initial information gathering is so important?
Peter Bellmio: The problem is too many of our agencies don’t have geographic ownership of territory in patrol. I’ve found in the communities were and maybe they do have this in this agency. If they are consistently assigned to the same department, part of a big team and this is their area, it’s in their self-interest because it tells them who the good guys are and the bad guys are, who’s going to hurt you, who’s going help you. If they own the territory that’s what I would say to them, this helps you police better and know who you’re talking to. That would be the pitch I make. You don’t have that geographic ownership, the big problem is if you had turned it into something that they get quota marks for. We have one guy in Virginia Beach, he went down and this a true story many people joke about it, to get the major off his back, he went down with the cemetery and got DOBs of tombstones and submit them in as field contacts until we figured it out. They have to see that they own it. I would say if you own the territory, this is your beat why not? Why not?
Audience Question: Peter you’ve talked about as you’re making changes in the organization to make sure to involve the training department in the process. Do you find most agencies do this or is it they are not involving their training departments early enough in the process?
Peter Bellmio: I think that it is not early enough. I think the other thing too, the training right now in policing, the training divisions are varied. They’ve got consistory stuff, they’ve got you support stuff, they have all kinds of stuff. That only says the biggest part of our budget is people. 85% of that is patrol most of the time. Departments have to give the resources or find the resources to the training divisions to do this kind of stuff and get involved early to do, this is job task analysis that really is the basis for training. It’s really convincing the training director that it’s important and/or the chief saying that they are going to dedicate the resources of this training to get this done because training is normally tied up with in-service and with the recruits. That’s the biggest barrier that the training doesn’t have time.
Audience Question: What are the biggest mistakes that departments make when they are trying to determine staffing for their investigators. What are the most common things or biggest things that you see the agencies make time and time again?
Peter Bellmio: Well, they, unfortunately, have to react to politics and the pressures of violent crime, drugs. Somehow they get say we’re going to add more people to the narcotics unit. I worked in Baltimore for two years. One of their big issues, I know the new chief is dealing with this is that they have so few people in patrol that because we’ve created special units to solve problems. You can’t have a unit of 25 people in a major city that’s going to solve the drug problem. We fall into that trap, get overspecialized. We’re trying to show results, we’re getting pushed to show results. That’s a velvet trap. It satisfies the policymakers. It makes for showing the public that we are doing something but the reality is we are not getting any outcomes from it. It’s hard to really solve the problem. It really is getting back to the bottom of staffing for the agency that you have. It will staff deploy manage patrol force will do more to reduce violence and reduce drug use than small specialized units that are trying to fix the problem. In reality, they have to work together, especially units have to do what patrol can’t. The problem is we get pulled to specialization because the show’s begun.
Audience Question: When you do these studies, is there a way of evaluating how many cases an investigator can realistically work at one given point in time. I know this also ties this to experiencing burnout that so many of our law enforcement officers are experiencing these days. Is there a way of realistically kind of come down to a number on that?
Peter Bellmio: It’s tough to do because I think you’re looking at because this goes beyond just outcomes for an arrest is what’s reasonable. I think we don’t do enough job test analysis to really sit down and say what do they do but the problem of the investigators is they’re free spirits. They all do things in different ways. That’s the problem I think what it is we talked about is some of the agencies are that the investigators all have a desktop that’s way different than anybody else. There are so many public domains, information resources. We should make it easier and look at what it takes for them to go find the information. One of the rules I try to establish in the agencies is you shouldn’t have an investigator go and look for something that we already know. If we already know it, we should give it to them already and instead of making them go get it. I think looking at the work of the investigators and this becomes organizational development. Techniques are important. You may want to convene a group of investigators to look at how we can do this better, faster and with less pain and suffering because you are all getting burned out? Is there some way to do it or do we need more people? I think when you’ve rung a data-driven answer to policymakers that shows them look this is what you get or what you put in, this is what’s happening to our people. We can do a better job, be more efficient and here’s the evidence. That’s what really a unified case management system will help you do.
Audience Question: You talked about taking similar cities to evaluate the city again. How do you go about choosing those cities? Is it merely just about size or do other factors play a role in that city selection process?
A: I really look at things like their proportion of violent crime not so much even the volume of the percentage of persons against property, income levels. Really crime is driven by (dead air 1:07:41) and it’s the poor who call the police, it’s the poor who call us to solve the problems. The wealthy call their lawyers and sue people. I think that you have to think about how you compare. I’ve used things like housing stock, age of the housing stock. I think getting your planners involved to take four or five different factors that mirror with proportionally what you have to make them comparable. Taking a suburbanized, you know this, take a suburban place, a rural place or a city, they are all different. That would be my suggestion is looking at the characteristics of the population and the proportion of violent crime.
Chris: I’m assuming going back and updating that data as well not assuming that a city that you compare yourself five years that comparison may no longer be valid as well, right? (1:08:27)
Peter Bellmio: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. It’s something that you, these are things that you got to do on an ongoing basis. This is the life has to be something, planning research keeps going just like they would patrol deployments staffing. They need this to move this data along on an ongoing basis.
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