I just returned home from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Mid-Size Cities Section conference in Washington D.C. (all costs were paid for by the IACP). I have been a Deputy Chair of this group for a couple of years now and find my involvement to be extremely beneficial. The chiefs who partake in this section are very engaged, active and innovative and come from a wide variety of cities and departments throughout the country.
I listened to a lot of innovative ideas and programs that other chiefs have intitiated. Chiefs also shared problems and issues that are effecting their cities and departments. We prioritized the current problems chiefs are facing and they landed in this order; budget cuts, recruiting issues, dealing with an increasing population with mental health issues and lastly, increasing prescription drug and heroin issues (opiates).
I was also able to spend a little time with Flint, Michigan Public Safety Director Alvern Lock. He is currently managing the Flint police and fire department and has faced unprecedented budget cuts. Flint's population has dropped to about 110,000 and the police department has been cut to about120 total officers (we have 152). Additionally, Flint has between 55-65 homicides a year! That is more than Minneapolis with about 700 officers. It was fascinating to hear how they address crime given their incredibly low staffing.
There were many other really interesting police chiefs I was able to spend time with as well. In looking at how things are here in Duluth compared to other cities, I came back feeling we are on the right track and are doing pretty good when it comes to our prevention efforts, community support, caliber of staff and the crime rate.