Cops 101: 52,883 calls

April 19th, 2012 at 4:22 pm by under COPS 101

The Terre Haute Police Department had 52,883 calls for service that required an officer response in 2011.

There are 136 officers on staff.  That averages to about 389 calls per officer. If you are really good at math, you could divide that by the number of work days in a year, subtract vacation and sick time, and find out the average day for an officer. Unfortunately for you, I’m not good at math.

This week in the academy, we went over some different departments. It was really interesting to find out more about each department and learn a little about their role.

Terre Haute Police Chaplain Ministries

We started with the Chaplain Ministries. This is led by Detective Dan Walls. Since he’s both a detective and volunteers as the Chaplain, he has an interesting position.

Det. Walls helped start the program in ’04, so it’s still very new! His role is basically to help officers and their families get through the highs and lows associated with the job. If you think about it, police officers see some of the worst scenarios that happen in our community every single day.

The program itself is interesting because they get no money from the department. Everything from bibles and books to Detective Walls time when he’s doing chaplain word are donated. (Of course, they’re always looking for donations. They’re working on an easy way to get the community involved. As soon as it’s up and running, we’ll let you know.) If you’d like to know more about how a police chaplain ministry works, you can go here to find out.

New Recruitment and Selection Process

This is interesting because the department is actually in the middle of this right now! This week, potential new hires are completing physical tests to see if they have what it takes for the police force. Can you run a mile and half, do push ups and sit ups in a timed environment, and complete a 16 inch vertical jump? On paper, I’d like to say I can. If we really tried, I’m not so sure I’d master them all.

They invite people to apply every two years. After someone applies and makes it, they are ranked. The department then uses that ranking to hire people over the next two years.  (The two years rule is an Indiana law.)

This year, they had 190 applicants. That number was whittled down to 168 pretty simply—people who didn’t follow directions on the application were not considered. In the police department, everything is a test. (If you’ve ever seen the movie The Recruit, you know what I’m visualizing. It’s unlikely that intense, but that movie was fascinating to me in that respect. If you haven’t seen it, check this out.)

Anyway, after the physical test that’s happenings now (which usually loses about 50% of people just by drop outs), applicants will complete a written test. This is primarily a general aptitude test. It’s not over Indiana law, Terre Haute law, or police department rankings.  Applicants who get through that are interviewed.

The physical test is 20%, the written test is 40%, and the interview is the remaining 40%. After your “grade” is determined, you’re ranked by it.

THPD has several openings right now, and they expect several more between now and the end of the year with retirements, making this round of recruits more likely to land a job.

Code Enforcement

This department is amazing! Marty Dooley leads it, and he has five officers in the department. They do a little bit of everything around the city to keep it moving.

They manage everything from garbage in abandoned lots and alleys to high grass in vacant lots, and animal control (They only have 1 officer on this.) to spay and neuter programs. Plus, the officers have to know all of the city laws they are enforcing. We saw just a few of them, and I can’t imagine being comfortable knowing all of them.

In 2011, they responded to 12,000 calls for service. Their work is pretty impressive for such a small department.

Towing contract

This one is less exciting for most people, but it’s super important when you need it. The city has a contract with three towing services. They tow abandoned vehicles, cars left after a person was taken to jail, and cars involved in accidents. This contract is vital because it protects you. It sets prices and makes sure you’ll be able to get your car out of the lot. Anyone who’s ever used this service knows how important it is (and how frustrating it is when it isn’t done properly).

Grant writing

THPD doesn’t have a plethora of extra money in its budget. (I don’t know anyone these days who does.) For that reason, grant writing is so important.

Most police grants are federal, which means they have hoops to jump through, sometimes with flames I would bet. In other words, these are very difficult to complete and they have to be done perfectly. (To me, it sounds a little like we’re back to “everything’s a test”. Maybe it’s just me!)

When done properly, it pays off, literally. Take a look at a few of these numbers.

In 2009, THPD received $1,359,347 in grants. (Of course, this was around the time of the release of federal stimulus money, so it’s a little skewed. None the less, that’s a lot of money!) The grants helped the department employ six officers that they may have had to lay off otherwise during the poor economy. (Did you know: To date, THPD has never laid anyone off.)

Over the past 5 years, the department has gotten new radio systems that allowed them to talk with State Police (very important in the event of a police chase), new bicycles, laptops for police cars, video equipment for Vigo County courts, bullet proof vests, and countless other pieces of equipment that’s helped in so many ways. Not to mention, they’ve given thousands of dollars to the Vigo County drug court to help it function. Money talks, and this money says they’re doing good work at THPD to bring more money to the Valley.

Training

Some may think training just happens the first year of work at THPD. While that’s when training is non-stop, it definitely doesn’t stop after “freshman” year. To keep up with federal, state, and city mandates, officers do training all the time.

We saw last year’s training schedule for new hires. It’s rigorous, and THPD seems to have it down to an art.

For instances, since there are several right ways to handle a situation or complete a task, new officers train with different veteran officers to help give them an idea of all of their options.

Outside of their training at THPD, officers also spend something like 15 weeks at the police academy doing their training.

During the training time, officers learn everything from laws to court systems to writing reports (typing reports now a days).

All in all, it was a great week to better understand what’s going on at our local police stations. These guys and gals have a lot on their plate. All of this is on top of answering the 52,883 calls.

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