Kalamazoo Public Safety officers are making dramatically fewer traffic stops. Chief Jeff Hadley says the data reflect a change in the department’s strategies.
Back in September, the Kalamazoo police department released a study that showed, among other things, that African-American drivers were almost twice as likely as Caucasian drivers to get pulled over in the city.
Officers made 3,841 stops between September and January, compared with 7,298 from September 2012 to January 2013.
But Hadley says the department's efficiency shouldn't be based on the number of traffic stops.
“What would concern me is: Do we have an increase in crime? Are we not addressing issues? Are we not listening? Are we not engaging the community? Do our officers just drive around and do nothing? Those would be my concerns. But I don’t have those concerns because we have very dedicated officers that have a fantastic work ethic,” Hadley says.
He says officers have gotten more daily direction based on up-to-date, community-specific crime data.
“We feel that nothing that we do should be random – that our officers have the best information that go after specific individuals who are creating problems within our community.”
“So when they’re were going out using the traffic stop as a way to address specific issues, they had the best information and they were responding to information from us or complaints in the community,” he said.
Public safety officers have undergone more training on several topics, including conflict resolution and fair and impartial policing.
They’re encouraged to better engage people living in Kalamazoo.
“Around times and places and circumstances that don’t have anything to do with arresting somebody or addressing a crime issue,” Hadley says. “We really try to encourage our officers to get out of the car, meet people in your specific neighborhoods, build that trust, get to know them, let them know you, so that when you need them for information or support, they’re there for you and vice versa.”
After doing some research, the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety recently revised its search-and-seizure policy.