When I took the oath of office as chief on April 30, 2014, I was blessed to be chosen to lead a workforce teeming with talent and a proud tradition of providing qualitative services. But no person or agency should fall prey to resting on past laurels; a commitment to continuous improvement is critical. Each and every employee (both sworn and civilian) is challenged to see where systems improvements could be made to make us more efficient and afford ever greater possibilities for enhancing quality. It was in this spirit that I tasked my Management Team to consider the possibilities of creating two new units of detectives in 2015; one for "violent" crimes (VCU) and one for burglary crimes (BCU).
Madison is fortunate to have exceptional detectives dispersed throughout our five districts. Having worked alongside them since l983, I cannot begin to describe their diligence, their passion, and their complete dedication as advocates for victims of crime. Not a day goes by when I do not receive a note, an email, or a call where a victim (or someone from their support network) contacts my office to extol the virtues of a detective that helped negotiate them through a traumatizing incident. These real life testimonials affirm that my detectives go the extra mile for those who have suffered harm and must now proceed through life coping with their new "normal."
Historically, MPD detectives are assigned throughout all of our districts and work a variety of cases that can run the gamut of everything from crimes against children to financial improprieties. This will continue to take place at the districts where the crime(s) originated and is our primary method for follow-up, where appropriate, with investigative resources.
Beginning on February 1st (coinciding with our annual shift assignments), some detectives will become "specialists" in violent crimes and burglary crimes. For the time being, we are pulling these detectives from our existing pool of personnel for this "pilot" initiative; should our results prove promising, I will be back at the budgetary table to request expansion of our reach and to better supplement our detectives who are already bearing an ever-increasing case load.
Why violent crimes and burglaries and why now?
There were two prominent drivers that prompted me to consider this pilot:
a) These are significant crimes that are starting to trend with greater frequency of occurrence.
b) These crimes have profound implications on not only the "immediate" victims; there are "collateral" damages. . .namely, the perceptions that linger and seep into our very psyche when intensely harmful and personal crimes are left unsolved. "Perception" of crime can be every bit as harmful as reality. When our constituents feel unsettled about their personal safety and the sanctity of their homes and neighborhoods, everyone's quality of life is diminished.
As chief, I cannot allow such a slippery slope to go unabated. In taking affirmative steps to launch these two new units, MPD is signaling our commitment to moving beyond our "traditional" approach of using generalists assigned to the districts. In recognition that many of the offenders we encounter do not confine themselves to exclusive boundaries, the new units will transcend district lines to move nimbly with a team of detectives who will develop a specialization for the core crimes specific to their unit.
In moving toward limited specialization, there will be a more focused point of contact, an opportunity to develop more subject matter expertise, shared responsibility with a cadre of contemporaries all familiar with best practices for that genre of offenses, greater continuity in working cases (i.e., the case does not stagnate when one individual is on vacation or in court on a lengthy trial), and no one detective forced to bear the daunting responsibility of being solely responsible for what investigative strategies to employ to advance the case. Working as a collaborative team, the entire unit must bear the responsibility for case management and victim follow-up and care.
Each of these specialized units will have district liaisons to provide active investigative updates. The detectives will work closely with patrol officers, neighborhood officers, and gang officers to generate leads and share information. Additionally, these units will have a crime analyst assigned to them in order to be more attuned to formulating a "modus operandi" (looking for patterns of how the crimes are being committed in an attempt to pre-empt or predict the next "target"). The BCU will also utilize a pawn store specialist to assist in identifying those who are trying to unload stolen goods and to help victims recover their property.
While these two units will be "new" to Madison, they have become an established mainstay in markets comparable to our City (according to the Police Executive Research Forum/PERF). PERF actually recommends specialized teams as a "best practice" approach to these particular crimes.
MPD has actually seen the benefits of specialization in other investigative domains: the Dane County Narcotics Task Force (drugs), our Special Investigations Unit (SIU works to identify the most violent offenders coming out of penal institutions, and places them on notice that we are putting them under heightened scrutiny; resources are provided to assist in re-entry and detectives work earnestly with these subjects to try to alter their behavior. But if the subject re-offends, then we work with prosecuting authorities to exact accountability using the most stringent of available penalties). MPD also has a specialized gang unit that works on deterring those who are gravitating toward "the life," assisting those individuals who are trying to get out of gangs, and holding those members who commit crimes responsible for their illegal activities.
With any change, comes some growing pains. As we move closer to launching the units, I expect there to be some speed bumps. But I am also confident in the people who are leading the units as well as the detectives who have signed on for these assignments. Detectives in specialized units will still have to work hand-in-glove with the districts and vice versa in order for us to maximize our coordinated response.
As is the case with all of our operations, I will be evaluating the new units for their effectiveness. I will also insist that the customer service that we hold sacred be taken to even greater heights. If a case is not going to be assigned, victims should be contacted and provided a reason as to "why." Community partners (i.e., neighborhood associations) should be kept apprised when a crime trend is affecting their area. We cannot go it alone; the partnerships we forge with our constituents will continue to be our linchpin to the prevention and reduction of crime.
A "pilot" program, by very definition, is an opportunity to try something different and then gauge worth. Should the initiatives not measure up in delivering improved results and services, we will continue to make the kind of changes that are essential to keeping Madison a safe community.