Fort Collins Police Services
is part of a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award-winning city with
collaborative leadership centered on citizen involvement
Five years ago, potential traffic and crowd problems dominated
headlines during intense public debate over Colorado State University’s
proposed new stadium for its Fort Collins urban campus.
After the first game this year, the reviews were good. City leaders, including interim Chief of Police Terry Jones, were not surprised. The public had been heard, and their concerns were given weight during the planning process.
This example of successful citizen interaction illustrates why the City of Fort Collins earned the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.
Malcolm Baldrige was a businessman who served as the Secretary of
Commerce in the 1980s. The award is earned by applicants who demonstrate
outstanding quality as defined by the exacting standards of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program.
Integrated approach to service delivery
Fort Collins Police Services
Interim Chief Terry Jones credits getting citizen feedback from a
variety of sources as a way for the city’s leadership team to focus on
an agenda of specific issues within a context of long-term goals that
align with the city’s values.
With this and other data, the city’s
executive leadership team knows what everybody else is doing,
reflecting an integrated approach to service delivery.
conducts a survey every two years and has a history of nine surveys
since 2008 to compare longitudinal data. The survey is designed,
conducted and analyzed by an outside vendor. The survey reaches out to
all demographic groups, and is available in Spanish.
are just one part of gathering community information. “Data-driven
analysis is more than chasing red dots on the map. You get a tremendous
amount of information by just walking around,” said Jones.
Law enforcement is a part of city services
police departments find that they are alienated from other city
departments or even feel that city leadership is adversarial to the law
enforcement function. The inclusion of police services in the overall
survey may feel different than a survey developed internally just to
look at a police department.
The overlap of citizen concerns whose
solutions lie in more than one city bureaucracy is more easily
addressed with a comprehensive survey covering all city services. For
example, a crime reduction solution may reside as much in the parks or
public works department as with the police. Leaving crime and quality of
life issue solely in the hands of law enforcement can result in biased
and skewed perceptions guiding decision-making.
Why police leaders may be surprised by community comments
even if the survey is developed internally and conducted by a police
department, rather than professionals using the tool to assess city-wide
service, the results can be valuable.
2014, Fort Collins Police Services implemented a citizen survey process
about their experiences when interacting with police officers. Acting
on this feedback, the agency increased its emphasis on
Community-Oriented Policing (COPS) as the preferred means of addressing
community needs. Community policing officers build trust by developing one-on-one relationships with citizens through programs such as “Shop with a Cop”
and “ride-alongs.” The COPS program has contributed to resident survey
scores on crime prevention that outperform both regional and national
Jones says that asking the public for input generates
more positive comments than you might expect. He also noted that the
top concerns voiced by citizens were not about the police department,
but other quality of life issues like bus service. It was nice, Jones
remarked, to know his department was not at the top of the complaint
Jones says he is fortunate to work in a vibrant city and
community, which includes the university with its annual influx of young
people. Various city and campus leaders, including Jones and his
university police counterparts, walk around during orientation events
and have spontaneous, casual conversations with the campus community.
The city even has a civic engagement liaison to give special attention
to bringing diverse interests into decision-making.
award provides a roadmap to improvement processes similar to what a
police department would go through in applying for CALEA accreditation. The application and competition provide an incentive for innovation and excellence.
“I can’t imagine a law enforcement agency not doing a survey. If you’re not taking the temperature of your community, you’re missing the boat,” said Chief Jones.
About the author
Joel Shults operates Street Smart Training and is the founder of the National Center for Police Advocacy.
He retired as Chief of Police in Colorado. Over his 30-year career in
uniformed law enforcement and criminal justice education, Joel served in
a variety of roles: academy instructor, police chaplain, deputy
coroner, investigator, community relations officer, college professor
and police chief, among others. Shults earned his doctorate in
Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of
Missouri, with a graduate degree in Public Services Administration and
bachelors in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of
Central Missouri. In addition to service with the U.S. Army military
police and CID, Shults has done observational studies with over 50
police agencies across the country. He has served on a number of
advisory and advocacy boards, including the Colorado POST curriculum
committee, as a subject matter expert.