As the city prepares for a new police chief to take over, Oberlin officials have decided to assess the department with the help of The Novak Consulting Group.
Firm reps met with city council members, the city manager, and residents Monday to discuss what was found in their assessment and their recommendations to improve the department.
The group found more part-time officers are needed along with advancement in technology, updated job descriptions, tweaks to the department’s manual, and more proactive policing.
“You have a well-rounded department and officers,” said Jonathon Ingram of Novak. “What we’re talking about here is an oil check.”
Oberlin only has one part-time officer and Novak recommends four.
“It provides a great deal of flexibility,” Ingram said. “At this time going the part-time route would be the most cost effective.”
Novak had two community focus groups consisting of city employees and residents that discussed what traits they want in a new chief and their thoughts on the department.
“Generally, the feedback was people feel safe,” said Catherine Tuck Parrish of Novak. “There was a desire to get to know the officers more. You do have a real robust community outreach programs.”
She said a strong relationship between the police chief and college is critical too.
Ingram encouraged the police department to have officers divide time between being reactive, proactive, and administrative.
Reactive means an officer is responding to a call or complaint. Proactive is patrolling the city and checking areas of higher crime. Administrative entails filling out reports and conducting work at the station.
Ingram said police spend 45 percent of their time in reactive mode and 45 to 50 percent in administrative mode.
There’s a real need for proactivity, he said. Ingram believes the best way for the department to improve its proactive policing is by moving officers from an eight-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts.
That would allow Oberlin to have fewer patrol teams, a more complex schedule that overlaps, and decrease the number of days each officer works.
“The risk to it is you’re working more hours,” Ingram said. Despite the long hours, he has seen 12-hour shifts becoming more commonplace.
Tuck Parish encouraged council members to assess the safety departments periodically.
City manager Eric Norenberg said he did not recommend having Novak assess the fire department because it was evaluated five years ago and has been implementing a strategic plan for the past four years.
Novak is expected to give city officials a final analysis and recommendations for the police department within the next two weeks.
Valerie Urbanik can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik.