(BLOOMINGTON) – The City of Bloomington today is releasing two organizational assessment reports of its public safety departments. Mayor John Hamilton last year directed that independent, third-party assessments of the Bloomington Fire Department (BFD) and the Bloomington Police Department (BPD) be undertaken, in order to review operations and inform budgetary and organizational decision-making for each department.
The City contracted with Novak Consulting Group to conduct the assessments during the first quarter of 2020. The City has previously contracted with Novak to assess the structure of eight other City departments. The public safety reports combine an analysis of each department’s data and history with feedback from employee interviews and recognized industry standards and best practices. They provide recommendations relating to structure and staffing, culture and practices, facilities and equipment, and other categories. Novak presented a preliminary draft report to City officials on May 13, which served as a resource for development of each department’s 2021 budget. Final reports, dated August 14, are available at the public safety page on the City’s website.
“Public safety is a fundamental, first-order responsibility of every level of government. These third-party reviews bring a valuable perspective on our public safety departments’ performance and suggest ways to improve,” said Mayor John Hamilton. “Bloomington has been very well served by the dedicated men and women who protect us all every day, and this review helps assure continued excellence in public safety, as our community expects and deserves.”
Recommendations to consider for the Bloomington Police Department include increasing the proactive component of patrol operations–otherwise known as community policing or problem-solving policing–the practice of establishing community relationships and addressing problematic situations before they result in criminal activity. The report complimented the BPD’s progress toward proactive policing in the work already being done by the Downtown Resource Officers, the 17% increase in civilian positions on the force over the last four years (compared to a 4% increase in sworn positions), and the department’s incorporation of the pillars of the 21st-Century Policing model, among other commitments and accreditations. The Mayor’s proposed reallocation of funds for five new civilian positions in BPD’s 2021 budget–including two additional Neighborhood Resource Specialists, two additional Police Social Workers, and another data analyst–reflects the report’s recommendations.
Based on detailed analysis of an entire year (2019) of police call data from the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system, the study also suggests reviewing a variety of officer scheduling options to address staffing challenges in the patrol division of BPD. The study acknowledges the national challenge of recruiting officers. City leaders will review the recommendations with the BPD, the Board of Public Safety, and the police union to determine whether and how any recommendations might be implemented. Mayor Hamilton has also asked the Board of Public Safety to assemble a community-based advisory committee to undertake a wide-ranging review of policing policies and practices within the next 12 months, which may be informed by this report.
The assessment of the Bloomington Fire Department included recommendations for enhancing the department’s collaborative culture, increasing administrative staff capacity, developing and regularly updating comprehensive Standard Operating Guidelines (SOGs), and conducting a station location assessment to prioritize station rehabilitation and replacement within the greater goal of continuing to minimize response times. City leaders will review the recommendations with the BFD, the Board of Public Safety and the firefighters union to determine whether and how any recommendations might be implemented.