Scottsdale Police Chief Alan G. Rodbell likes to compare police with the image of a lone ice skater. From the outside and under the spotlight, everything looks great. Behind the scenes, however, there is a lot of training and work that is necessary.
"What we're trying to do is say what's important is what the public sees, but what's also as important is what's behind that curtain,'' Rodbell said. So, the department is in the midst of creating an unprecedented five-year strategic plan.
The goal is simple: Better communication, better work environment and better organization.
The intended result: Better service.
"It has everything to do with the quality of the organization and how well it delivers its services and how it functions,'' Rodbell said.
From lowering crime to marketing to finding out where officers should be stationed will be covered in the plan, tentatively slated for release in September.
"We're not just reacting to what's happening today. We're saying here's what's happening in Scottsdale. Here's what the future holds. Here's the direction we're going in,'' Rodbell said.
A team of about 20 department employees have built the five-year plan, taking into account three community input sessions, an independent consultant review of the department and individual police unit plans. It also addresses leadership and inadequate technology, which led City Manger Jan Dolan to fire Police Chief Doug Bartosh in January.
"It's a broader view from what we've done in the past,'' said Helen Gandara-Zavala, director of police administrative services and project organizer.
Part of the findings show the department will use its three district commanders as sort of mini-chiefs.
Ideally, each district leader would have its own bicycle unit, plain-clothes unit for undercover surveillance, traffic control resources and will work with residents in their regions.
"My philosophy is that the district commander is, in fact, the chief of police of the area in which they're responsible, and people should be able to go to them and they should be able to resolve their issues,'' Rodbell said.
District 1 is from the Tempe border to Chaparral Road; District 2 is from Chaparral to Cactus Road; and District 3 is from Cactus to the city's northern boundary. All three commanders would continue to report to deputy police chief John Cocca, who answers to Rodbell.
The department also plans an "evolution from D.A.R.E.,'' the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program the City Council cut in the 2003-04 budget. Since the public comment showed interest in keeping a similar youth program, the department is focusing on drug/gang prevention for elementary and middle-schoolers.
"The police department does have a role to play in drug and alcohol and delinquency prevention for young people. I believe that firmly,'' Rodbell said. "Police have a role to play but not the sole responsibility.''
D.A.R.E. took four full-time officers. And, Rodbell wants to team with with other community groups to work with pupils more than D.A.R.E. did.
Police also hope to buy a helicopter in the next five years that voters approved in a 2000 bond vote. The obstacle is the estimated $1 million cost per year for upkeep and operations, or the equivalent of 10 police officers, Rodbell said.
Technology improvements for the dispatch center and records management also are on the long list of wishes. Rodbell said he knows that he won't get everything the department asks for, but with a plan in place it may help.
The plan does not require City Council approval. But, the council would have final say over certain expenses, such as a deployment study, which will be considered in September. Rodbell plans to ask the council to hire a firm to study where patrol, investigations, communications, records and detention units could be used best.