LANCASTER — The City’s proposed hybrid policing model will move into the next phase of its development with a projected summertime start date.
Consultants from Hillard Heintze — the Chicago-based law enforcement-consulting firm hired nearly one year ago to develop options for the hybrid policing model — presented their report Tuesday night to the City Council.
Consultant Robert Boehmer said after meeting with city and county officials and community members the overall theme was that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department maintain an essential role.
“ ‘We want something different and we want some additional policing on the community level. But we like the sheriff’s department; we want them to continue operating here.’ That was a very clear message from everybody,” Boehmer said.
Lancaster has the largest contract in the county with the sheriff’s Department. The city pays for a certain number of contract minutes per year. The Lancaster Sheriff’s Station is about 30 deputies short, Vice Mayor Marvin Crist said.
The proposed hybrid-policing model would feature district coordinating peace officers, also known as DCPOs, assigned to specific city districts, where they engage and build trust with community members.
“This is not a traditional police department,” Boehmer said. “This is a different entity; it’s a different look. In a way it’s really about solving people’s problems.”
The district coordinating peace officer will be a certified peace officer trained with a special set of skills in terms of connecting people with social services.
“It’s called problem solving,” consultant Robert Haas said. “It’s looking at a situation and figuring out why is a problem occurring over and over and over again.”
The community peace officer will devote time and energy to identify problems, work with the community and find creative ways to break the cycle of problems, Haas added.
Data shows small portions of locations within the city generate a high level of calls for service.
“How do you break that cycle? What is causing it? What’s driving it?” Haas said. “A lot of times it’s not crime that’s driving it, it’s other issues that are driving it that basically are at the root cause. It’s these folks with that training who are going in to figure out what is driving that situation and finding solutions that work with those families.”
Steps to help prepare for implementation of the hybrid-policing model include developing a budget, negotiating agreements with the sheriff’s department, beginning recruiting and hiring personnel, and maintaining ongoing communication with the community.
“It’s going to be intensive,” consultant Betty Kelepecz said. “It’s going to be a little chaotic and crazy because no change happens without chaos.”
Kelepecz said there are still many steps to take over the next six months before the hybrid policing model can begin, including conducting a crime analysis to determine how many community peace officers are needed, and who will train them.
“Is this going to work?” Vice Mayor Marvin Crist said.
“Yes, absolutely work,” Public Safety Director Lee D’Errico said. “I think it will be a great service to the community.”
Crist noted city data shows that Lancaster deputies spend about 42% of their time writing reports for retail businesses such as Target and Walmart.
Using the community peace officers — which will be retired deputies to begin with — can help by freeing up Lancaster sheriff’s deputies’ time to address other issues to help regain some of that lost 42% time.
“If we do this, is the public going to be safe? Are they going to be safer?” Crist said.
D’Errico said yes.
“I believe the emergency response and high-priority issues will be dealt more expeditiously,” D’Errico said.
City Manager Jason Caudle said that while the community peace officers will be trained to the highest level, it will be sheriff’s deputies who will make arrests when needed. The community peace officers will be able to issue administrative citations.
The City Council voted 4-0, with Mayor R. Rex Parris absent, to move on to phase two of the hybrid policing model.