Sumner Police Department works on victim response

The Sumner Police Department is trying to improve the way it responds to victims, part of an effort to take policing in a new direction.

Chief of Police John Galle makes plans to change police direction

The Sumner Police Department is trying to improve the way it responds to victims, part of an effort to take policing in a new direction.

Police Chief John Galle and Administrative Manager Jason Wilson presented an overview of a program created by the International Association of Chiefs of Police at a recent City Council study session.

Galle told the council early in his career, a fellow officer said the job of a police officer is to arrest someone. Galle believes while that’s part of the job, it is only one facet of police work; focusing on arrest rates means success is measured in a way that is reactive to crime. Galle feels the emphasis in policing frequently focuses on the criminals and not enough on victims.

The victim response program shifts the focus to being proactive toward crime, both Galle and Wilson said.

Galle said more public trust will lead to increased crime reporting because the public feels there is adequate police response.

During the study session, council was told there is sometimes an inverse relationship between a community’s fear of crime and actual crime rates, something the Sumner department hopes may change with the response program.

Wilson said while Sumner has a slightly higher crime rate than some neighboring areas, people generally feel safe and the department has a reputation for being responsive.

With any system, there is room for improvement and the presentation revealed some of the target improvement areas.

A survey of Sumner crime victims pinpointed the areas needing improvement.

In a 2008, a survey showed 39 percent of respondents stated they received contact from the police department following an incident.

The survey revealed 85 percent of respondents did not contact a victim service provider and 63 percent were not aware a provider was available, which is the same percent as shown in a similar survey in 2007.

Another survey revealed 57 percent stated they received victim resource information and 90 percent rate their overall contact with the department as “above average” or “excellent.”

To improve victim response, the police department is involved in programs like The United Way of Pierce County 2-1-1 program, which is an information service. The 2-1-1 staff provided training for department members and new business cards with victim resource information were designed. Patrol officers will have business cards with 2-1-1 on the back and provide victims with contact information for different resources.

The police department seeks to provide a greater variety of resources to refer victims to. Typically the only type of victim assistance people were referred to was for domestic violence.

Wilson said the department plans to improve its notification procedure, providing victims with information about the status of the legal process against their offenders.

“This is definitely a proactive effort for police,” Wilson said. “It’s definitely not being reactive. It leads to a better sense of trust. They trust in the police and are more likely to report activity.”

Chaz Holmes can be reached at cholmes@courierherald.com or 360-802-8208.

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