(Past week of reported car prowls, from SPD police-report map)
SOUTHWEST PRECINCT UPDATE: Car prowls remain “the crime of the day,” and “we attribute it to the drug use that’s out there,” began Southwest Precinct commander Capt. Pierre Davis. A resident of an apartment building north of Morgan Junction said that they’ve had two car prowls in the past month and have found needles in the alley – “what are we supposed to do?” A discussion ensued about whether, if spotting a car prowl in progress, residents should try to detain the prowler themselves. With the caveat that “we’re not your lawyer,” the general advice was no – “you never know who you’re dealing with,” Capt. Davis observed.
Another attendee said her area of Puget Ridge has been hit “19 times in two weeks,” including bicycle thefts, emergency kits stolen from porches. But she said most probably hadn’t been reported.
“People don’t want to file a report because they know nothing’s going to be done,” another attendee declared. “File the report,” retorted Operations Lt. Ron Smith, “because we need to know what’s happening. … You can be frustrated, we’re frustrated.” File a report online, file it by phone, just file it. Officers might find a fingerprint and then be able to make an arrest, Capt. Davis noted. Lt. Smith reminded people that one single car prowler can hit 15 times in a night. When they got a barrage of reports from one particular place – The Junction was one, Highland Park was another – they focused resources, and that made a difference.
“Statistics drive resources,” added precinct liaison Matthew York from the City Attorney’s Office. Reports drive the records, which drive the officers, which drive the money, “that’s why they’re important.” And policing takes resources – on Tuesday night, for example, precinct brass pointed out, there are 11 officers on duty in all of the Southwest Precinct, from South Park to Roxhill to The Arroyos to Alki.
Lately, Capt. Davis said, they’ve been arresting people “who come from clear outside the city to do their burglarizing,” and they’re working with prosecutors to try to get them “more hard time” once arrested. They also have knowledge, cyclically, of which crimes become more of an issue at which time of year – and longer nights mean more car prowls, for examples. So they are again stressing, don’t leave ANYTHING in your vehicles – some people keep leaving laptops, guns, etc., and professional car prowlers know the picking will be good.
The Puget Ridge resident said, what about a house where there seems to be a pile of bikes under a tarp and it’s growing, and they wonder, do police know about that? Capt. Davis said they’d appreciate tips, but of course they also need “probable cause” to go after someone or someplace.
Getting the word out about crimes is good too – Capt. Davis mentioned a stolen car reported on WSB, and a citizen spotting it, and it getting recovered and prints of a frequent offender taken off it, too.
A belated round of “around-the-room introductions” followed, and one attendee was from Westwood Village management, which led to some discussion of problems in that area, including shoplifting, and how it can turn into a case of robbery if the shoplifter uses force.
‘WHAT’S HAPPENING AT THE POLICE ACADEMY TODAY’: Rex Caldwell was the featured guest, from the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission (whose training center is in Burien). He says the 744th class at our state’s law-enforcement-training academy started earlier in the day. Caldwell, a retired officer, says it was a 400-hour academy “back in the day,” and now it’s 720 hours, “roughly 19 weeks. … Some say it sounds like a lot, but some say it’s nowhere near enough.” And that’s just part of the process between hiring and getting an officer out on the street – a process that costs $100,000, “a big investment.”
The training model changed in 2012, said Caldwell. It’s no longer “boot camp” style, but includes training to “develop critical thinking and decision-making skills,” as well as to “instill values that lead to ethical self-regulation in the use of power,” and to “improve public trust.” Now, Caldwell said, they “seek the right combination of Pete Carroll and Chesty Puller.” (If you don’t recognize the name either – here you go.)
They’ve moved away from “memorizing checklists and procedures,” Caldwell’s presentation noted.
Public trust is vital, but for a variety of reasons – some well-publicized, some not – “after decades of falling crime rates, and improved tools and training, public trust and support of the police has not improved.”
Training has changed, he stressed – they now infuse the curriculum with behavioral and social-science programs, and “mock scenes” have been “re-engineered.”
What DIDN’T change about police work?
*Physical/mental stress is still high
*Rules/codes of conduct strictly upheld
*Defensive tactics standards tightened up, incrased drills, integration with communication, de-escalation
*Firearms training enhanced with SIRT pistols (laser-integrated), “focus on combat shooting rather than targets”
Policing can be a “full-contact sport,” Caldwell said. “It’s not guardians instead of warriors … we have not abandoned the warrior…” but at heart, “we are guardians, here to protect our cities, our communities, our residents.” He says they’re in the second year of a five-year study with a Seattle University researcher, and hope to change the police culture.
280 officers are in training right now and the academy is still crowded – 10 percent of our state’s 11,000+ officers are eligible for retirement right now – to make room for increased Seattle training, it’ll take some changing, he said.
Also: While in training, they tend to lose “one or two per class,” Caldwell said. Then some others may wash out once back with “the agency” that hired them. They train every police department in the state except the State Patrol, which has its own training center. They also teach 911 dispatchers.
Next meeting of the West Seattle Crime Prevention Council is 7 pm Tuesday, November 15th, at the Southwest Precinct.