Increased police calls leads to staffing changes
opinion Duluth,MN 55802 http://www.duluthbudgeteer.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/field/image/Gordon%20Ramsay-web_9.jpg?itok=myku3_4J Gordon RamsayDuluth Budgeteer(218) 727-7348customer supporthttp://www.duluthbudgeteehttp://www.duluthbudgeteer.comIncreased police calls leads to staffing chaDuluth MN 424 West First Street 55802 Last week was very busy for the Duluth Police Department as we had some of our busiest days by call volume ever. I was listening to the police radio at my desk Thursday, Aug. 13, and calls were being dispatched nonstop. After hearing calls aired by dispatchers with no available squads, I left my desk and lent a hand on the street.
There were many calls for service waiting to be answered as they were triaged in order of seriousness.I pulled up police calls that were waiting to be answered on my computer screen and was amazed to see five unrelated attempted suicides and one suicide that squads were dealing with — along with a host of other calls. I don't ever remember seeing six suicide-related calls in a day, never mind six occurring at the same time.
As I continued to look at the long list of calls waiting to be answered, one in particular caught my attention. It was from a local supportive housing unit where a disturbance was occurring in an apartment and staff members were concerned for the welfare of the tenants. I told dispatchers to assign me that call and I responded to the location.A squad cleared another call and volunteered to go with me. As I was traveling to the call on I-35, I came across debris near the edge of the roadway and many cars pulled off to the side. It appeared there were about three different incidents at this location. I stopped to ensure no one required medical help and that everyone was safe. I heard the Minnesota State Patrol was a short distance away, so after determining immediate assistance was not needed I continued on to the assault call. At that point, the other squad had arrived on scene and I was concerned he was there alone, but I was stuck in slow-and-go traffic and arrived a few minutes later.
When I arrived at the building, the staff members there looked frustrated and said they had been waiting for an extended period of time for us to get there. I apologized for the delay, explained that all squads were tied up, jokingly offered to deputize them and went to the apartment. The officer on scene had things under control and the apartment dweller said he was on the phone with an ex-wife and he became enraged.The increase in police calls is likely due to a number of variables, including a lack of resources for the mentally ill, our push to report suspicious activities, the proliferation of cellular phones, and people calling the police for issues they never used to call for.
Lastly, a drug culture has taken hold in our country and we are dealing with the effects through noticeable increases in drug-related issues.
In 1993, the Duluth police handled about 135 calls per day that involved a total of about 50,000 incidents. In 2014, that number increased to 276 calls per day that involved more than 100,000 incidents. When I took over as police chief in 2006, if we had 300 calls for service in a day we knew the squads were busy; a busy day for squads now is 350-400 calls.
I am concerned that our response times are delayed due to high-call volume as well as when we don't have a backup officer available for an officer when needed.
A few years ago we reluctantly pulled officers from east and over the hill to help with the increase in call volume in the core areas of the city. While that helped temporarily, a more thorough plan will roll out Jan. 1, 2016 which will change shift lengths and times to ensure we are staffed properly at the busiest times of the day.
Our 2016 staffing plan also includes expanding our community policing efforts from a few to every officer in the patrol division; no longer will community policing be a specialized unit or "that guy's job," but instead every police officer will be engaged in solving problems and building relationships.