Challenges in 21st-century policing are stacking up like warrants on an on-the-lamb ax murderer.
Social justice. Funding. Defunding. Use of force. Disrespect. Mental health – of officers and those they encounter. Fentanyl. Technology – for officers and the bad guys.
The biggest challenge, perhaps, is finding anyone who would even want to be a police officer in today’s climate.
Maricopa’s city manager found one to lead the Police Department in Pasadena, Calif., Police Commander Mark Goodman. Rick Horst said Goodman’s philosophy of “finding the right balance between enforcement and grace” separated him from the pack.
“The challenges faced by law enforcement and municipal governments are many in the rapidly changing and evolving world that we live in today,” Goodman said. “One of the only constants we can depend on as leaders is change, and the city of Maricopa and the Maricopa Police Department are no exception.
“I strongly believe in the value and power of contemporary community policing strategies, which include genuine concern and interaction between the Police Department and the people it serves. I believe in resolving community concerns through shared goals and forging long-standing partnerships and relationships with the community.”
Goodman’s first day on the job is Jan. 23. The new police chief will be expected to stay on top of a growing department in a growing city and manage the minefield of challenges in 21-century policing.
“That’s one of the things I like about Chief Goodman,” Horst said. “You’ve probably heard the term ‘community policing.’ That term has been around since the late ’80s and ’90s, and it kind of became a catch-phrase — but it’s not what has been done in most cases.
“If it’s done right, it’s all about relationship building.”
Horst likens developing community relationships to making daily deposits into an account. If a police chief and a police department are doing the right things and building the right relationships, he says, they’re making daily deposits.
“And then, if something might happen where the Police Department is called into question, that withdrawal is counted against all of those deposits and people say, ‘No, wait a minute, I know these guys. I’ve interacted with them. I’ve seen what they do. This is an outlier. This is not who they are.’”
How the Police Department handles mental-health issues has become increasingly scrutinized. Many Valley law-enforcement agencies have begun sending mental-health professionals on calls for service that do not require a response by an officer with a gun.
Horst says Maricopa is joining them. That’s another reason why Horst said he was attracted to Goodman.
“One of the things Chief Goodman has been successful at in Pasadena is he implemented such a program, where one police officer and a mental-health clinician go out together,” Horst said. “The officer obviously is armed but it isn’t a show-of-force-type feeling. He’s there for the security and safety of the clinician, who then works with the homeless person or the mentally ill person and helps them find the right resources.
“Our goal here is to do the same thing. There’s a lot of pieces, a lot of moving parts, and it’s going to take years to get it all there, but it all starts with a conversation. We’ve had that conversation. Now, we’re starting to put together what this might look like.”
Recently, Maricopa hired a mental-health professional, Durel Williams, as Organizational Health Supervisor to work not only with public safety but all city staff.
Maricopa also has implemented a program in which incoming 911 calls are vetted by the dispatcher, who then attempts to deploy the appropriate assets to the situation, taking some of the load off police officers when their presence is not needed in a call for service.
“In other words, if it’s homelessness or mental disability, we want to start sending out clinicians or faith-based organizations or nonprofits, who are trained more in how to handle those things,” Horst said. “That’s not what we train our police officers to do, and it’s unfair for our police officers to serve as a catch-all on every environment. These can be civilian based and not sworn based. That frees up even more time for officers to do policing.
“This is not a reallocation of assets. We’re not taking anything away from our Police Department or their resources, because some people would call that defunding. We’re adding additional resources to make this happen.”
For example, Horst said Goodman will have several new officers when he arrives.
“Obviously, we have to keep pace with growth,” Horst said. “We’re adding nine officers this year. Our concentration always is on prevention first, and that starts with patrol and traffic for the most part. Frankly, that’s not the most exciting thing we do in policing, but it’s the most important thing we do.
”Will we grow? Yes. One of these days we’ll probably have a hundred-thousand population. We just broke ground this week on our new police station. Will we outgrow it? Yes. I hope we get 20 years out of it.”
In addition to manpower, an effective modern-day police force also needs new technology, new training sets and new training skills in addition to the traditional tactics and skills.
“In today’s policing,” Horst said, “it’s about critical thinking, about organizational health, about strategic planning. There’s so much more to it today than a cop on the beat. It’s not like the old days and thank goodness it’s not. Our department continues to lead the way and we continue to be one of the safest cities in the entire state.”
Goodman reiterates that to continue achieving that, it is essential the department finds effective and innovative ways to engage Maricopans, including its youth.
“It is my belief that creatively seeking opportunities for growth and innovation will be essential in moving forward,” Goodman said.