FAQs About Adding Two Police Officers – Chief’s Answers

To better serve our community, the Maple Bluff Police Chief has proposed the addition of two full-time officers. Below are a few frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the topic with Chief Nystrom’s answers.

2018-2023 Maple Bluff Police Response Data
01.) Why is the Chief of Police recommending additional officers for the Police Department?2024-07-05T11:02:46-05:00

The Village of Maple Bluff faces evolving public safety challenges that lead me, as Chief of Police, to recommend the addition of two full-time police officers. The rationale for this increase is grounded in several key factors:

1.     Increased Risk Environment: The current staffing model leaves officers working alone for 67% of their shifts, a practice that significantly increases risks, particularly in a growing metropolitan area. The increasing contacts with repeat offenders and more complex interactions due to surrounding growth has heightened these risks. Two additional officers will allow for safer, more effective policing by providing backup and reducing the vulnerability of single-officer shifts.

2.     Enhanced Response Capabilities: Mutual aid agreements with nearby jurisdictions, while valuable, cannot replace the immediate response capabilities of having adequately staffed shifts within our own department. Delays in mutual aid can compromise safety during incidents. Two officers on duty ensure faster, more reliable response times, enhancing both officer and community safety.

3.     Capacity to Handle Increasing Demands: The police department has observed an increase in contacts with repeat offenders and a rising prevalence of dangerous behaviors. Current staffing levels limit the department’s ability to provide proactive services, which I predict will become more of an issue as Madison grows. Additional officers will enable the department to meet these emerging demands.

4.     Proactive Policing and Crime Prevention: Proactive policing strategies, which focus on preventing crimes before they occur, are more effective when there are enough officers to implement them. With additional officers, the department can engage more in community policing, enhance visibility, and deter crime through increased and timely interventions.

5.     Improved Officer and Community Safety: The safety of officers and the community is paramount. Single officer responses limit the ability to control a situation and increase the potential for negative outcomes. Two-officer coverage reduces these risks by providing immediate backup and support in potentially dangerous situations.

6.     Community Trust and Strategic Coordination: Increased staffing fosters stronger relationships with the community through enhanced engagement and visibility, building trust and cooperation, which are critical for effective policing. It also allows for better coordination with neighboring police departments and aids partnerships.

7.     Long-Term Sustainability and Recruitment: While recruiting and retaining officers is challenging, competitive wages, professional development, and a supportive work environment can mitigate these issues. Ensuring adequate staffing levels helps prevent burnout and turnover, making the department more attractive to prospective officers.

8.     Efficiency and Administrative Support: Additional officers allow the department to prioritize support duties, such as investigation and management responsibilities. This improves efficient operations, public safety outcomes, and community expectations.

In conclusion, adding two full-time police officers is a strategic investment in the safety and well-being of the Village of Maple Bluff. This measure will enhance the department’s capacity to respond to the increasing demands in a growing metropolitan environment, improve officer safety, and maintain the high standards of service that Village residents expect and deserve.

02.) Why, if the department can “. . . provide the quality services residents are accustomed to with our current staffing model,” are we even considering this?2024-07-05T11:06:53-05:00

While the department has historically provided quality services, the risk environment has evolved since the last staffing adjustment. The growing frequency of interactions with more dangerous offenders and complexity from urban growth in surrounding areas have increased the demands on our police force. Officers now face more difficult situations with seasoned criminals and repeat offenders, necessitating enhanced coverage and safety measures. The addition of two officers is a proactive measure to adapt to changing circumstances, address emerging challenges effectively, reduce the likelihood of tragic outcomes, and continue to provide the high-quality services residents expect.

03.) Don’t our mutual aid agreements assure that if an officer calls for backup, the Dane County 911 center will dispatch the closest available officer?2024-07-05T11:08:57-05:00

Mutual aid agreements are valuable but have limitations that make them less reliable for immediate response needs. During peak times or simultaneous incidents in nearby jurisdictions, mutual aid officers may not always be immediately available, leading to delays in response times. These delays can compromise both officer and public safety, highlighting the importance of having adequate staffing within our own department to ensure immediate backup.

Additionally, mutual aid officers may not be as familiar with the specific needs and nuances of our community as our own officers. This familiarity is crucial for providing tailored and effective responses to incidents. While mutual aid is an essential component of our overall strategy, it should not replace the need for sufficient internal staffing.

04.) If we staff two officers on patrol during a shift, will they be in a car together or in separate vehicles and what are the comparative risk/benefits?2024-07-05T11:07:47-05:00

Generally, officers will ride in separate vehicles to maximize patrol coverage and response times. Separate vehicles increase visibility within the community and allow officers to respond to incidents more swiftly from different locations, reducing overall response times. This also affords officers more options in responding to simultaneous calls or dividing labor to more effectively manage incidents.

The primary risk of separate vehicles is the potential for officers to face higher-risk situations alone before backup arrives. Officers riding together ensure immediate backup and may be preferred in circumstances of elevated risk, such as presence of protest activity or threat intelligence. However, given the size of our community and the benefit of increased coverage, a separate vehicle approach will generally allow for greater flexibility and adaptability in responding to the complex and evolving demands of policing – enabling officers to make real-time assessments and adjust as needed.

05.) Are we getting as much out of our Mutual Aid agreements as we put in?2024-07-05T11:01:46-05:00

Yes, mutual aid agreements benefit Maple Bluff significantly, especially in terms of support received from the Madison Police Department (MPD). Although I do not have data on mutual aid provided by MPD, Maple Bluff averages about 400 mutual aid calls per year with MPD most frequently receiving our assistance. The mutual aid relationship with MPD is particularly valuable to our small team due to the resources, expertise, and specialized units that enhance what we get from their support.

06.) What are we doing to strengthen our relationship with the other agencies we have mutual aid agreements with?2024-07-05T11:00:12-05:00

The relationship with MPD and other surrounding agencies has been maintained and strengthened for many years through personal relationships, meetings, collaborative initiatives, and working groups. Regular communication through dispatch, direct radio contact, and instant messaging, as well as personal relationships between officers and supervisors, further enhance these partnerships. These efforts not only improve operational coordination but also build trust and cooperation between agencies. By actively engaging with neighboring agencies and participating in joint initiatives, we ensure that our mutual aid relationships are effective in enhancing public safety.

07.) Since the majority of criminal contacts originate on Sherman Ave and travel to or from Madison neighborhoods, how do we coordinate with the north and central precincts?2024-07-05T10:59:02-05:00

Coordination with the north and central precincts is managed through multiple channels, including dispatch, direct radio contact, instant messaging, and established personal relationships. These relationships promote efficient communication and quick coordination for incidents that travel between jurisdictions.

08.) Other communities in Dane County also contract with the Dane County Sheriff’s department for additional officers, when needed. Have we explored that?2024-07-05T10:56:22-05:00

Yes, contracting with the Dane County Sheriff’s department has been explored. I do not recommend this course of action however due to several factors. Reimbursement to the County would likely result in a greater financial cost to the village than hiring our own officers. Additionally, community integration, policy differences, control and accountability, and potential dependency issues are significant concerns I have.

I think that hiring additional full-time officers within our department is more beneficial for maintaining effective, community-focused policing. It ensures that officers are familiar with the specific needs and nuances of our community and can provide tailored and effective responses. While contracted services can provide additional support, they cannot replace the advantages of having a dedicated and well-integrated police force within our own department.

09.) While officer safety is a compelling emotional argument, how does a more proactive police policy affect safety risks to officers?2024-07-05T10:57:43-05:00

I think that officer safety is not only an emotional argument but also a logical and practical concern, especially for a small team. Proactive policing allows officers to address potential threats before they escalate into more dangerous incidents, thereby reducing risks. By engaging in proactive measures, officers prevent crimes, deter criminal behavior, and manage situations more effectively, ultimately enhancing safety.

Proactive policing also has the potential to improve long-term social outcomes through early crime intervention, opportunities for rehabilitation, and prevention of recidivism. By providing alternative pathways that dissuade a continuation of dangerous behavior, proactive intervention can create opportunities for young people to change their life trajectory.

10.) Can we maintain the same crime prevention standards as we have historically with policies that decrease the risk to officers?2024-07-05T10:53:07-05:00

Yes, current policies from Lexipol and the Department’s training program are designed to balance officer safety with crime prevention standards. These policies incorporate legal standards, best practices, and the latest research in law enforcement. The Department’s training program ensures that officers are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to effectively prevent crime while maintaining their safety. Proactive policing, community engagement, and the use of technology and data analytics further support this balance.

11.) What’s the argument against waiting to see how less expensive traffic calming measures might reduce traffic on Sherman?2024-07-05T11:10:49-05:00

I support exploring the potential benefit of traffic calming measures, but do not think that they alone will address the evolving safety needs we have. I also think waiting to add staff could result in preventable tragedies.

12.) How many higher-risk interventions happen at night, when we’re already staffing two officers per shift?2024-07-05T11:11:37-05:00

We are not currently able to staff a second officer every night but have structured our scheduling to maximize coverage as much as possible. Unfortunately, very few part-time officers want, or are able, to work the precise shifts the Department would prefer. Full-time officers on the other hand can provide consistency in our double coverage. Higher-risk situations can occur at any time but more frequently occur in afternoons and evenings. In 2023, we received approximately 70% of our calls for service from 11am to 3am. Adding two officers would allow the Department to typically cover this timeframe.

13.) How many higher-risk interventions happen on the Sherman Avenue corridor with people who are passing through?2024-07-05T11:12:17-05:00

Approximately one-third of calls for service are traffic-related, with a high percentage of arrests stemming from these contacts. Notably, very few Department arrests involve village residents – in fact, none in 2023. The Sherman Avenue corridor experiences significant through-traffic, making it most likely for higher-risk interactions. This highlights the need for consistent officer coverage on Sherman Avenue to manage these risks effectively, deter dangerous behaviors, and improve overall safety in this corridor of our community.

14.) How many interventions that start on Sherman Avenue take officers outside of Maple Bluff and for how long on average?2024-07-05T11:13:15-05:00

Approximately one-third of our service calls are traffic-related, with most of the traffic passing through the North Sherman Corridor. The duration of a traffic stop varies, but the vast majority are completed in less than 10 minutes. It is common for a violation observed on Sherman Avenue to result in a stop beyond village limits, typically not far unless the suspect evades arrest. This occurs because officers need time to make observations, verify information, and coordinate resources before activating their lights to ensure accuracy and safety. Given the small size of our community, this often means stops extend just outside village limits. With two officers on duty, one officer can provide backup for safety while the other can break away to respond to other calls once the traffic situation is under control.

15.) Would our public safety needs be as successfully met if different police policies or traffic control strategies diverted through-traffic to Packer’s Avenue?2024-07-05T11:14:13-05:00

I think traffic diversion measures would improve traffic safety in Maple Bluff, however I do not think alternative policies and traffic control strategies alone would displace the need for additional officers. Maintaining two-officer coverage is important to ensure safety and effective response to incidents in the growing urban environment.

16.) Would a more visible police presence deter driving infractions and reduce the incidence of high-risk interventions?2024-07-05T11:15:33-05:00

I think additional visual presence alone is unlikely to reduce high-risk incidents. While visible patrols can deter some driving infractions, a comprehensive approach that includes proactive policing, community engagement, use of technology, and strategic enforcement is most likely to address the root causes of high-risk situations.

17.) Have we considered how our policies affect recruitment and retention?2024-07-05T11:16:14-05:00

Yes, competitive wages, proactive policing practices, and a supportive work environment are critical for recruitment and retention. The current strategy includes hiring officers with experience versus new recruits. This is due to a reduction in police candidates (see question: What type of recruiting are we doing at MATC?), a competitive labor market to maintain effective staffing, and the benefits of maintaining a consistent and experienced team. We continue to recruit and hire retired officers among our part-time ranks and our current staff includes a significant amount of professional experience.

18.) What type of recruiting are we doing at MATC?2024-07-05T11:17:27-05:00

The recruiting environment for police officers has become very competitive over the past several years. While we used to be able to recruit individuals from Madison Area Technical College (MATC) police academy, that is no longer the case. In the past, individuals would put themselves through the police academy to be more marketable for hire. Now, other departments are paying new hires to attend the academy while we do not have the funding to do so. Additionally, due to limited seat availability at the academy, Dane County agencies are having to send new hires as far as Appleton for recruit training. Ultimately, given the labor market today, seats for MATC are difficult to secure and graduates are already hired. The pool we have available to recruit from has changed significantly.

19.) How do our policies affect recruitment and retention of new and retired officers?2024-07-05T11:18:16-05:00

Our officers are drawn to the department for its culture, supportive community, proactive approach, professionalism, and effective crime prevention. The department’s focus is on proactive measures, community engagement, and support, which creates an attractive work environment for our officers.

20.) Do more proactive policies require more training (especially of younger officers), and what are the financial implications of that, including our return-on-investment?2024-07-05T13:37:50-05:00

Regardless of policing strategy, ongoing training is essential to ensure that officers are competent, effective, and aligned with community expectations. Investing in training supports the development of skills and knowledge needed for policing, and especially in an urban post-2020 environment. The risks of underinvestment in officer competency and training are high, and we should learn from the preventable tragedies of the past.

21.) What’s our recruiting pitch to new officers? Does it differ by demographic? How does it differ from other departments?2024-07-05T11:20:01-05:00

The Maple Bluff Police Department emphasizes its mission, vision, values, and professional culture as core elements of its recruiting pitch. This approach attracts candidates aligned with the department’s proactive policing and community-focused philosophy, differentiating it from other departments. We also emphasize the unique advantages of working in a smaller department, the ability to make a significant impact, receive comprehensive training, and work in a supportive and collaborative environment. By focusing on these strengths, we attract officers who are committed to proactive policing and community service.

22.) Does a department with proactive policies attract officers who want more action and risk?2024-07-05T11:20:48-05:00

A proactive approach to policing attracts officers who are motivated by active engagement and crime prevention. This work ethic reinforces effective policing and crime deterrence, contributing to community safety. I think officers who prefer proactive policing are typically those who enjoy the challenges and rewards of taking initiative, developing specialized skills, engaging in meaningful community interactions, and preventing crime.

23.) Are there examples of police departments in jurisdictions of comparable size and tax base with multiple officer coverage?2024-07-05T11:21:36-05:00

The Shorewood Hills Police Department (SHPD) provides a comparable example. SHPD operates with 9.5 personnel, including 8 full-time sworn officers and additional support staff, enabling greater two-officer coverage than the Maple Bluff Police Department (MBPD). MBPD operates with fewer personnel but maintains a similar service level and public safety standard. One notable difference between the communities is a larger commercial district in Shorewood Hills – which helps offset homeowner tax burdens for public services.

24.) What attempts have been made to engage the Madison North District to coordinate on a policing strategy for the North Sherman corridor that improves coverage for our officers through better use of mutual aid?2024-07-05T11:22:17-05:00

The relationship with Madison Police Department’s North District has been in place for many years. Leadership and officers alike, engage in regular communication by phone, through email, dispatch, direct radio contact, and instant messaging. Our officers and supervisors also maintain personal relationships which further enhance these partnerships. These efforts not only improve operational coordination but also build trust and cooperation between agencies. By actively engaging with neighboring agencies and participating in joint initiatives, we ensure that our mutual aid relationships are effective in enhancing public safety.

25.) In 2020 the village passed a referendum to fill a vacant position and add an officer. The justification for this was lack of 24/7 coverage and officer safety/wellbeing. There was no mention at the time of multiple officer coverage as a need or a goal to reduce risk, but some of these same arguments are now being made to add two more officers. Can you explain what changed in the past four years?2024-07-05T13:30:34-05:00

Multiple officer coverage was discussed prior to the 2020 referendum, and we were in imminent jeopardy of not being able to fulfill our single officer 24/7 police coverage obligation – officer welfare was a significant concern of mine.

As we looked to address these challenges, our officers experienced several events and conditions that placed further stress on our team, including added workloads and health risks of working through the COVID-19 pandemic, constant need to be prepared for call-ins related to protests and civil disorder, increased criticism and disparaging interactions from the public, and rising incidents of recklessness and obstructive behaviors. These experiences were also accompanied by some impactful national trends, including rising rates of violent crime, high-profile incidents of deadly assaults targeting police, politicization of law enforcement, and calls to “defund” police departments.

Furthermore, the need for two-officer coverage has become more apparent as a best practice for modern policing in an urban environment, providing immediate backup and reducing the risks associated with solo patrols. The addition of two officers aims to enhance coverage, improve response capabilities, and address the increased risks and demands that have emerged over the past four years. This proactive measure ensures that the department can continue to provide high-quality services and adapt to the evolving needs of the community.

26.) Can you provide more details and examples of how current staffing levels have “limited our capacity to deliver services in critical times”?2024-07-05T11:23:53-05:00

Current staffing levels do limit our capacity to deliver services. For example, officers working alone 67% of the time reduces their ability to respond to multiple incidents simultaneously, leading to delays and increased risks during critical situations. Additionally, a significant portion of an officer’s time, approximately 35%, is consumed by administrative tasks, further reducing their availability for patrol and immediate response. These limitations increase our reliance on mutual aid, which can lead to delays in backup and response times during emergent or simultaneous incidents.

Fortunately, due to our preventative approach and low crimes rates, residents become aware of these delays infrequently. When they do, I typically receive a call from the affected resident expressing concerns with a response time. I explain that there are often circumstances that require our officer to request additional support from another agency for safety purposes, or that another agency had to respond due to our officer being on another call. I also share that our current staffing constraints affect our ability to engage in proactive policing and community outreach, which are important for crime prevention and building public trust.

27.) How would you address concerns that adding two new officers will increase the department’s recruitment and retention challenges, potentially requiring remedial efforts in the future such as salary/benefit increases or signing/retention bonuses?2024-07-05T13:28:37-05:00

I think the addition of two officers will help prevent burnout and turnover by ensuring that officers are adequately supported, and workloads are distributed equitably, thus reducing the strain on individual officers. A work environment that prioritizes officer well-being, purpose, and growth, enhances retention. By proactively addressing these issues, we can maintain a stable and dedicated workforce, ensuring that we continue to meet the community’s safety needs effectively. Salary and benefit increases are marginal and will be a consideration each year, just as they are for all village staff.

28.) How would you address concerns that the department will make another request within the next few years, using the same justifications, for more officers to enable 100% coverage?2024-07-05T13:24:43-05:00

The current proposal to add two officers is based on a careful assessment of immediate needs and resource availability. While this will not provide two-officer coverage for all shifts, it represents a significant improvement over the current situation and addresses the most critical safety concerns. Future staffing needs will be evaluated based on ongoing assessments of community desires, risk factors, and operational demands.

The department remains committed to ensuring that staffing levels align with the evolving needs of the community while balancing fiscal responsibility. By maintaining a proactive approach to staffing assessments, we can ensure that any future requests are both necessary and well-supported.

29.) How would you address concerns that additional officers would result in increased availability for mutual aid and thus more police activity outside the village?2024-07-05T13:23:04-05:00

While mutual aid is an essential component of our policing strategy, the department prioritizes local coverage to ensure that requests do not detract from our primary responsibilities. The primary focus of adding two officers is to enhance coverage and safety within Maple Bluff. Effective coordination and strategic deployment will ensure that additional staffing is utilized primarily for local needs. The increased officer presence will enable us to manage incidents within the village more efficiently, reducing our need for mutual aid reliance.

Survey Deadline

July 21, 2024, 4:00pm

Public Information Sessions

July 8, 2024, 5:00pm

September: TBD

October: TBD

Village Board Meetings

July 9, 2024, 7:30pm

August 13, 2024

September 10, 2024

October 8, 2024

November 12, 2024

Election Day

November 5, 2024

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