Join the CHPD for community conversations

by Chris Blue, Assistant Chief of Police

Starting this weekend, the Chapel Hill Police Department plans to undertake a unique approach to hear about our community's expectations of us.  Beginning on February 6th, we will hold a series of community conversations to hear how we are doing as an organization.  Each session will last no more than two hours and will be managed by an outside facilitator.  The input will be used to develop a strategic plan aimed at improving the community-oriented policing program in Chapel Hill.

We're hoping that residents, merchants, students, and other community stakeholders will attend one of the sessions to help us think about the following questions:

  1. What first comes to mind when you think of the Chapel Hill Police Department?
  2. In what ways is the Chapel Hill Police Department active in your community?
  3. Are there additional ways you want the Chapel Hill Police Department to serve your community?
  4. If you think there is a gap between what you want from the Chapel Hill Police Department and what you get, how can we work together to close that gap?
  5. What else would you like the Chapel Hill Police Department to know or do?

The conversations will be held on the following dates at the locations shown below:
Saturday, Feb. 6
10 a.m.  
Chapel Hill Public Library
100 Library Drive (off Estes Drive)

Tuesday, Feb. 9
7 p.m.
United Church of Chapel Hill
1321 Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd.
(entrance on Homestead Road)

Saturday, Feb. 13
10 a.m.
St. Thomas More Catholic Church
940 Carmichael St. (Gymnasium)

Thursday, Feb. 18
Hargraves Community Center
216 N. Roberson St.

We hope that you will take advantage of one of these opportunities to let us know how we are doing as your police department and how we can better meet the expectations that you have for us.  We invite you to join us in talking about our relationship with the community and we are committed to renewing some of our long-held community relationships and forging some new ones.  If you would like to attend one of the public conversations, please RSVP to   If you can't attend, please send any comments to the same e-mail address.    

We hope that you will join us as we begin this important work.  We'll supply the coffee and doughnuts. 




Thanks so much for posting this, Assistant Cheif Blue!  Do people really have to RSVP if they are coming? That seems like an unusual barrier for a meeting designed to invite public comment. (Plus I don't like to make too many committments these days.)The coffee and donuts are a nice choice. Chapel Hill cops have a sense of humor!

I think this is a great idea, I'd like to see more honest conversation taking place between a police department and the citizenry that it serves, in any city.  Kudos to the Chapel Hill PD for setting this up.I'll sound off here just for the heck of it.  What I'd like to see is a lowest-priority status given to marijuana possession arrests within the department.  This sort of measure, which requires no change in state or federal law, is becoming an increasingly popular outlet for communities who feel their law enforcement resources can be spent much more effectively than in the pursuit of non-violent folks who happen to prefer marijuana (which by any objective measure is much, much safer than both tobacco and alcohol).While police are sworn to uphold the law, department administrators (and to a certain extent individual officers) have quite a bit of leeway regarding how to prioritize law enforcement activities.  Police are neither omniscient nor omnipresent, and so necessarily need to respect the limits of pragmatic enforcement.  I contend that an objective, evidence-based approach to the setting of these priorities will show that arresting non-violent citizens for the  possession of small amounts of marijuana is not the most efficient way to keep our community safe given the resources at its disposal.

"I contend that an objective, evidence-based approach to the setting of these priorities will show that arresting non-violent citizens for the  possession of small amounts of marijuana is not the most efficient way to keep our community safe given the resources at its disposal."


They rarely make arrests for simple possession.  It's already low on the totem pole, so to speak. 

The resources tied up in busting people for marijuana is ridiculous. A great quote from "The Wire" on drug enforcement: " A force of nature. Like sweeping leaves on a windy day"

and many variations on it for police department strategic planning & performance management systems.  Does anyone know if our police dept uses any variation of this?

If not, you should.  Let's say it takes a dubious view of programs like CompStat.  Like a lot of "standardizing" efforts in areas like education, the CompStat approach often serves merely to make officers better at working that system, not better at actually being police officers.  To use the show's lingo, it encourages "juking the stats" instead of truly effective law enforcement.Really.  If you've never watched The Wire , get on it.  Now.  Go.  Best show ever.

just to repeat what my public management courses are teaching:CompStat or CitiStat & all the others are just specific types of performance management systems. CompStat in particular, as developed in NY which drastically reduced crime there, is a pretty harsh one that has very high and public accountability standards, but there are many CompStat Lite versions out there that are more user friendly. Goal displacement, or what you're calling juking the stats, happens with the lack a of a performance management system or in the presence of a badly designed one.  With no measuring targets, milestones, & progress, research consistantly shows organizations vastly underperform public organizations that do.  But with targets if you over focus on processes rather than outcomes you'll end up with goal displacement where people find loop holes or ways to cheat the system.   If you do a balance of process and outcome goals (both short & long term), with a little more focus on outcomes, then you get better results.  It creates a focus on the most important goals of the organization, with milestones & targets that serve as tripwires to let managers know whats going on, it solves the Bureaucratic Law of Gravity (that bads news/information doesn't flow up the command chain), so that remedial action can be taken if necessary.  Also, with the focus on participation that is a part of strategic planning & performance management system, you get more information exchange and participation (& thus buy in) which is important because the studies show that if employees think the objectives are fair, they perform much better.  And you get goal cascading if you build it through each level of the agency so that a public agency doesn't work in a kind of erratic, disjointed way that is the norm without this. An example of pre-system goal displacement that we just looked at earlier this week was a government agency in a city in MA that was responsible for sending out parking ticket notices that was in financial distress for reasons including that they stopped sending out parking ticket notices.  The reason they gave was that the postage costs would be too high, and that it would create huge lines in the agency.We studied ways that a Performance Management system could be designed poorly.  For example if incentives were only tied to how many tickets were processed in a given time, you might get the employees treating costumers really rudely just to hurry them along.  But if you tied incentives for raises, promotions, and budget requests to things like not only how many people were processed, but quantativitly measuring quality through customer satisfaction surveys, then you would get serious results.UNC, NCSU, and schools with Public Administration programs across the US are teaching that "juking the stats" arguments are only arguments against designing CompStat or CitiStat or Performance Management systems badly.  People focusing on just improving the stats isn't a bad thing if you are measuring the right things.And its not just my management courses and organizational behavior courses teaching this, tonight in my grant writing course the guest speaker was basically there to say if you don't have a logic chain (a part of Performance Management systems) built into your grant, then most funders aren't going to take your proposal seriously.  You can just say, "here is our goal, we're going to try really hard & do our best" instead you have to have a number of balanced measurements & stats on how you'll get to your objective.

But metrics will never tell the whole story when it comes to police behavior.  Even in areas like NYC where these sorts of systems "work" and large crime reductions are observed, problems of police abuse and officer accountability run rampant.  There is virtually no oversight on SWAT raids, search legality, and other civil-rights related issues.  In fact, Giuliani and his "broken windows" theory ushered in a new paramilitary mentality among  law enforcement officers, extremely hostile to personal liberties.I'm fine with establishing metrics to track police activity -- in fact I think it's absolutely necessary.  These records should be publicly accessible and transparently derived.  But we shouldn't be letting the existence of such regulatory structures lull us into a sense of complacency when it comes to interactions between police and the citizens who employ them.Now, for the love of Bob, skip class and get the Season 1 DVD's for The Wire.

RSVPs are definitely not required...simply suggested to help us with planning, set-up, and logistics. Hope everyone will attend a session!

C Blue

There were about 8 people there, all white folks, reporters from WCHL and the DTH, a journalism student, and a blogger from Chapel Hill Watch. There were also 2 facilitators and a notetaker. We were led through the series of questions that Chris Blue posted above. There was very little in the way of complaints about the CHPD. I learned that Chapel Hill used to have a Citizen's Support Committee to meet with the police.Anyone else attend the one of these 'Community Conversations'?The doughnuts were tasty ; ) 

I attended the meeting at the Library on Saturday.  I would guess that there were about a similar number at that meeting as mentioned for tonight's meeting.  I think the media in attendance were nearly as many as the non-media.  In general I think the responses were pretty favorable toward the Police Department on Saturday.  Several people said that they wished the police were there to participate in some sort of dialogue and it was suggested that at least one of the remaining meetings, or an additional one, have police spokepersons participating.

classes, in the evening, keep me from being able to attend so many public events.  I'm glad for places like this message board so that I can still hear parts of the public conversation.

I'm not going to be able to attend any of these sessions, so I want to say here (and will also e-mail it) that I think a citizen review board is an excellent idea. I can understand why the CHPD sees it as extra administrative hassle that would get in their way, but it can also be a great opportunity to make their policing more effective by not just having better accountability, but truly having a better understanding of the nature of the community they are protecting.Also, I continue to be a strong advocate of neighborhood foot patrols, especially in Northside and other walkable areas. I can hardly stand to mention it for feeling like a broken record.


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