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Summer 2008 Message From the Chief for RPD Personnel

I found this both interesting and informative:


From: Chris Magnus [mailto:cmagnus@richmondpd.net]
Sent: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 3:02 PM
To: PD Dept
Cc: Lindsay, Bill; Leslie Knight
Subject: Summer 2008 Message from the Chief for RPD Personnel


Dear Department Members,


First, and most importantly, I want to thank you for all the exceptional work you’ve been doing so far this year.  Not only are your efforts reducing crime, you’re also playing a key role in improving quality of life for people who live and work in Richmond through a variety of activities, including neighborhood problem-solving, traffic enforcement, foot/bike patrol, and much more.




            Even though Richmond has all the policing challenges of a big city, in many ways it’s still a lot like a small town.  Many of our residents know each other, they have high expectations for their City Government, and they have a strong sense of community ownership.

You might be surprised how much feedback I receive from the public about the department overall as well as about specific police department employees.  This not only includes officers, detectives, and supervisors; it also involves personnel our residents deal with when they come to the front counter, the dispatchers they talk to over the phone, our jailers, our property technicians, and others. 

            Because I have so many people giving me their feedback related to the police department on virtually a daily basis, I wanted to share with you what I hear the most that members of the public like—as well as what they are frustrated by—involving our agency.



·         Personnel from our department who introduce themselves by name and provide a business card

·         When members of the public have to wait for service (either in the field or at our department), being told approximately how long it’s going to be—and what their alternatives are

·         Expressions of interest, concern, or empathy from our personnel about what crime victims are going through (as opposed to appearing bored, disinterested, or just “business-like”)

·         When we can’t help people who contact us, being given a referral or idea about where to seek help from someone else (as opposed to just being told, “Sorry, this isn’t a police matter.”)

·         Department members who are friendly, personable, and who do small things like wave, or even just smile, at residents when they can (you might be surprised that this is the #1 thing I hear from residents that they like)

·         Follow-up about the status of what they complained about or asked for help with, as well as the status of the investigation related to the crime they reported



·   Not having phone calls or e-mails returned in a timely manner—or in some cases, at all

·   Poor driving in City vehicles, including speeding and other traffic violations, failing to wear seatbelts, etc.

·   Being “talked down to” or being dealt with in a condescending or dismissive way

·   Department personnel who drive by problems without taking action or assuring that someone else takes action to deal with these problems (such as possible drug activity, disorderly conduct, traffic hazards, illegal dumping, graffiti, street or traffic lights out, etc.)

·   Lack of follow-up on some crime problems or quality of life issues; lack of feedback on what action was taken when follow-up has occurred


I’m sure there are other things that could go on both lists, but these are some of what I hear about most frequently.  Of course there are a large number (some would argue too many) policies, procedures, memos that describe how we should deal with the public and do our jobs, but I would like to ask you to approach your job—whatever it may be—with one simple philosophy in mind:  “Am I treating others the way I would want my family or me to be treated?”  If we do our jobs with this in mind, we will frequently surprise our critics, win over skeptics, gain unexpected allies, be more effective, and actually find our work to be more rewarding and enjoyable.




            I am sometimes asked, “What are you trying to accomplish in the department?” or, “What are your plans for the department’s future?”  In early 2006, I shared the following expectation with you:


Our department’s #1 priority is to reduce crime in Richmond—with a special emphasis on reducing violent crime.   Everything we do should contribute to this goal, either directly or indirectly.    Your success as a police officer is ultimately measured by how you contribute to the safety of your beat.


            That expectation has not changed.  As we introduce new technology, increase training, and add new personnel, our primary goal remains crime reduction.

What I am seeing now, more than ever before, is that many of you are willing to try new things, work with the community in smart and creative ways, and have real “pride of ownership” in your job—whether that job is a patrolling a beat, conducting investigations, managing records, tracking data, or some other important function.  If you can say, “That’s me . . .”, then you really are what the department’s future is all about and we will continue to see crime decrease.

As I look forward, my other priorities remain pretty straightforward:


►        Build the strongest possible relations between the department and the community.


We simply can’t be effective if people don’t trust us, don’t want to talk with us or work with us.  The other thing is this—the job of reducing crime and making the city safer is just too big and too difficult for us to do all on our own.  We have to be able to work effectively with others or we are spinning our wheels.  You represent the department to the community, so the way you handle situations, talk to people, and function as a problem-solver directly reflects on our agency as a whole. 


►        Provide our personnel with the equipment and training they need to be as effective as possible.


We are currently investing more in training and new technology than ever before in the history of the department.  If you have specific ideas for training or feel there are critical needs that are not being met, I would value your feedback and suggestions.  Following up on some issues that have already been raised, we will be doing actual “behind the wheel” (not simulator) emergency vehicle operations training this fiscal year, as well as training related to dealing with the mentally ill, diversity in the workplace, and more.


►        Assure the highest levels of accountability and professionalism within the department.


Accountability means insuring that everyone does their job in a manner that is consistent with our mission and vision statement.  By the way, do you remember what those statements say?  Let me refresh your memory:


The mission of the Richmond Police Department is to work in partnership with the community to solve neighborhood problems, address the causes of disorder, and enhance the quality of life in our city.  We will accomplish this by providing professional, Constitutional, and efficient police services, while striving to attain the highest standards of integrity and accountability.


Our vision is to enhance our performance so we are benchmarked by our professional peers and championed by our customers.


Accountability involves documenting what we do, rigorously evaluating our activities and outcomes, being our own toughest critics, and holding each other to high expectations. 


Professionalism means we adopt and follow professional standards and practices consistent with the best practices in policing.  This requires being open to change, looking carefully at new research as well as what other agencies are doing, and developing new skills related to every aspect of our field.   


            As we continue to hire new officers and rebuild our department, I am also looking forward to implementing several specialized teams and activities, including:

  • Establishing an in-house Narcotics/Vice Unit to compliment our continued participation in West-NET.  (This requires sufficient line-level personnel and supervision to be effective, as well as to insure safety and minimize liability.)
  • Expanding our current involvement in the West County Gang Task Force to deal even more comprehensively and proactively with gang activity in the area.
  • Implementing a more cohesive and coordinated approach to dealing with young people that brings together SROs, detectives investigating youth crime, and youth service providers (such as PAL).
  • Developing a specially trained crisis intervention team to deal better with the mentally ill, especially in high-risk situations.
  • Strengthening the scope, effectiveness, and resources of our Code Enforcement Unit to better address the serious problems created by the increased number of foreclosed and abandoned properties in our community.
  • Improving how we deal with residential and business alarms to reduce false alarms and provide better service.




            My decision to purchase and provide all patrol personnel with a Taser was not made quickly or easily, even though I believe the Taser is a critical tool to help safe lives and reduce both officer and suspect injuries.  Conductive Energy Devices (CEDs) are an evolving technology, but despite widespread use, as well as very positive safety record, they continue to generate skepticism, fear, and even political interference in some communities around the country.

            I want you to have the Taser as a resource to protect others as well as yourselves, but as with any piece of equipment, it is important you recognize and appropriately deal with this tool’s limitations.  The Taser cannot (and will not) insure you won’t have to go “hands on” with suspects and other dangerous individuals.  It is not a substitute for good verbal communication and de-escalation skills.  Finally, it should not be used with certain high risk populations unless absolutely necessary.

            Poor decision-making related to Taser use, lack of compliance with Taser guidelines, and inadequate or missing Taser use documentation, will make it very difficult for me to assure you can retain this important tool.

            Thank you for being as responsible as possible with this piece of equipment, for keeping up with the ongoing changes and refinements to our policies that deal with CEDs, and for taking your training with this tool very seriously.  We will continue to carefully monitor how the Taser is used and track the ways it helps us resolve emergency situations in the field.   As always, your input and feedback is appreciated.



            Thank you again for you’re the dedicated and capable job you’ve been doing, often over long shifts, frequently under difficult circumstances, and sometimes with challenging people.  You are making a real difference in the community and it’s something that many, many people notice and appreciate.  I feel very fortunate to have such an outstanding group of employees.

            Over the next several months I will be meeting with many of you in small groups to discuss various departmental issues, answer your questions, and solicit your feedback.  Whether you are part of these meetings or not, you are always welcome to stop by my office or send me an e-mail.  Your ideas and opinions are very important to me.

            Enjoy the rest of the summer and stay safe.





Chief Magnus