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 preliminary investigations training courses that could provide information useful for a field reporting guide. It’s really worth the time to ask your training academies to see what kinds of training materials 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 the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has guides for preliminary investigation for of missing child cases that could be adapted to other crime types. Calgary used to have is a pocket guide that you flipped up and you went through each time crime type. If you are an IALEP member, they have a list serve that you can use to find out what kind of field reporting guides member agencies are using. You may want to build your own checklists by crime type. Ask investigators about what information needs to be collected by patrol officers conducting preliminary investigations? I think the stuff is out there. It will take a little bit of further investigative work to find it.
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 the data analysis work needed. 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 Rand Corporation online archives.
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. If they are consistently assigned to the same patrol beat and they can feel like part of a team covering their area. For beat team members it’s in their enlightened self-interest to collect this information 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 you don’t have that geographic ownership, this could become a quota for counting activity. We had one patrol officer in Virginia Beach many years ago, to get the major off his back, he went down with the cemetery and got DOBs of tombstones and submitted 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: These days training divisions are tied up with use of force, cultural sensitivity, mental health issues or consent decree related topics. Departments have to give training divisions the resources to do this kind of investigative 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 and patrol has to take personnel of the street for this training but it is a fundamental part of the job to investigate.
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: Unfortunately, have to react to politics and the pressures of violent crime, drugs. Somehow they have to stop saying that they are going to deal with thses problems by adding more officers 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 they created special units to solve problems that really could be handled by patrol if they were adequately staffed and deployed properly.. 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 up 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.
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 this goes beyond just outcomes from investigations. We don’t do enough job task analysis to really sit down and say what steps do they take to investigate and resolve cases? Another problem that investigators are the free spirits of police agencies. They all do things in different ways to investigate cases. Another variable is the quality of computerized information system tools for investigators. In some agencies investigators all have a desktop that’s way different than anybody else. There are so many public domain 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. 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? 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?
Peter Bellmio: 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. I’ve used things like quality of 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. 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?
Peter Bellmio: Absolutely. It’s something that you do on an ongoing basis. Planning and research units should be monitoring these trends so they can apply them to trends in workload and staffing needs
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Staffing Analysis for Criminal Investigations.