Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Getting to know the Department…A Patrol Officer

This will be the first of a series of blogs designed to familiarize you with who we are and what we do. Of all the job positions in the police department, none is as prominent as the patrol officer. So grab a lunch, your fastest sneakers and ride along.

A patrol officer begins his/her shift by checking all the equipment in the car to ensure everything is in good working order. After they notify dispatch of their availability for calls, the team, consisting of a sergeant and six to eight officers, meets in the roll call room for briefing on new and updated crime information.

The Sergeant then assigns the officers to deployment areas in the city which are identified by analysis of crime data and crime trends. This has proven to be a more effective way to reduce crime than the traditional use of districts. Once in their deployment areas, patrol officers are expected to enforce traffic complaint locations and look for crime trends in that area.

Patrol Officers are assigned to an eight hour shift, which means they have no designated lunch break. Depending on call loads, they may find thirty minutes to grab a quick bite out but frequently need to brown-bag -it in their vehicles between calls. Officers are dispatched to calls based on our Global Positioning System (GPS). The closest officer(s) to the call are dispatched. This dispatching method helps to improve response times. Overland Park Police are dispatched on approximately 175 calls per day or 63,000 calls for service every year.

Changing technology over the last fifteen years has necessitated additional training for officers. Years ago, the equipment in a patrol car consisted of a police radio, a partition between the front and back seats, and a shot gun. Today, the equipment in the cars is worth more than the car. Computers, video recorders, and printers for electronic tickets are just a few additions.

Officers wrote 25,772 reports in 2010 using their in-car computers. Writing a report can take from fifteen minutes to a couple of hours, depending on the complexity of the call. It would not be uncommon for an officer to spend several hours on a call that involves an arrest and transport to the Johnson County Jail.

Officers also receive subpoenas to attend Municipal and/or District court several times a week. These appearances can take anywhere from an hour to the entire shift. Add 40 hours of training every year, and it’s easy to see that there is little down time for a patrol officer.