Peoria Police Chief Art Miller presented updates — including eight officer vacancies — on his department to the Peoria City Council Feb. 4.
Matrix Consulting Group completed a Strategic Growth Plan for the department in 2018, evaluating community data related to police operations in the area. Analysis of the data was used to develop and recommend approaches to maximize efficiency and effectiveness of police. The presentation served as an update on Peoria Police’s progress over the past year.
While the updates required extra time and effort by the entire department staff, it was worth it to make changes and create a safer city, the chief said.
“Our personnel are creative, compassionate, and they come to work ready to serve,” Miller said.
Miller said a major takeaway from recent studies concluded the department should redistrict and change hours officers regularly walk their beats.
Before redistricting, one officer was dealing with nearly the entire north side of Peoria. With the new zones, the area was divided into coverage in three different police zones. The department also scheduled hour changes for officers so they were on the street in the busiest times of the day. And, they created a “mid-shift squad” to the city’s busiest areas, which increased the number of officers on duty at peak hours, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Miller said the results of the changes are effective responses well below the 5 minutes and 30 seconds average response time in the United States. He did not, however, provide the exact times of police responses throughout the entire city.
He noted even one district increased its time by 19 seconds was still at 5:04, well below the national average.
“Our public needs to know we respond quickly and we’re very aware of the need for our services once they call us,” Miller said.
Peoria Police is also in the midst of impressive technological updates, according to Miller’s presentation.
He said the department’s communications division is being “revamped,” including updates to predictive policing, Communications/911 Call Center, considerations for a real-time crime center and cell phone analysis software for investigations.
“When this is completed we will be pretty much state-of-the-art, as high as we can get at the level we’re at and what we need to do to provide good service,” Miller said.
He added there is a shortage of workers to staff Peoria Police, just like Miller said is happening throughout the country. As of the presentation, there were eight officer vacancies, three communications specialist vacancies and one opening for a victim advocate.
Applications are also under review for a crime analyst, business systems analyst, victim assistance coordinator, crime scene technician, civilian firearms instructor and a civilian investigator.
Miller said the department is “streamlining” its hiring process in an attempt to make the hires as quickly as possible, while still maintaining quality of workers.
Also evolving, according to Miller, is the department’s social outreach programs – specifically targeting the city’s homeless population – and mental health services for staff.
Peoria Police have three outreach events per year, including a recent homeless count. Thirteen people, Miller said, have been placed in homes or received major homelessness services since the department partnered with Phoenix Rescue Mission in December.
Also, the department implemented a plan requiring officers who have dealt with three potentially traumatic calls to seek psychological counseling. This is aimed to address potential mental health problems, such as post traumatic stress disorder.
Miller praised his force.
“We do our best to either alleviate those issues or to address them right head-on. I think overall our officers and our staff know what’s going on in the city, and it plays a huge role,” he said.
Councilwoman Bridget Binsbacher said Miller has made great strides in improving the department.
“It feels very different today than it did when you arrived and it’s a result of the communication and the relationships and the trust,” she said.