“Pocket Cop”-Leadership in Criminal Justice-UMUC-DC Public Safety Radio

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Radio Program available at http://media.csosa.gov/podcast/audio/2012/02/pocket-cop-leadership-in-criminal-justice-umuc-dc-public-safety-radio/

[Audio Begins]

Len Sipes:  From the nation’s capital, this is DC Public Safety.  I’m your host Leonard Sipes.  Today’s program is about leadership and criminal justice.  There are a whole wide array of issues that the University of Maryland, University College has in terms of its leadership program, its academic education.  But before getting into the gist of the program, let me tell you about some of the examples of the things that we’re going to talk about today.  “Pocket Cop” which is basically the use of smartphones in terms of day to policing, predictive policing with IBM.  It’s just not your regular crime analysis.  It’s extraordinarily accurate, predictive policing, again with IBM, advanced foot patrols, advanced community outreach, a task force on commercial robberies, these are all the different things involved in terms of UMUC’s leadership program.  We have two guests with us today.  Back at our microphone is Doctor Bill Sondervan, Professor, Program Director of Criminal Justice and Intelligence Management.  He’s with the Graduate School, University College.  And we have Dr. DeSimone, Mark DeSimone.  He is a professor at UMUC Criminal Justice, lead faculty member of the Leadership Program and to Bill and to Mark, welcome to DC Public Safety.

Bill Sondervan:  Thanks Len

Mark Desimone:  Hi Len.

Len Sipes:  Alright guys, give me, Bill, why don’t you start off with the program, University of Maryland, University College, www.UMUC.edu.  You’re close to a hundred thousand students from all over the world, correct?

Bill Sondervan:  Yes, and I think the last I heard, we were about 96,000 students.  And UMUC is part of the university system of Maryland.  And we have a very distinct mission and that is the adult part-time learner.  Our average students are a little bit older; they’re around 32 years old.  We have many people in the military.  And most of our faculty are practitioner scholars that are working part time.  We teach classes all through Maryland.  We teach in, I believe, 25 different countries around the world to include Afghanistan and we do the majority of the online learning for the university system.

Len Sipes:  You know that’s an amazing scope of students all over the world, close to a hundred thousand.  I’ve read somewhere that you in terms of public institutions of higher education, that you have just about the most online students, more online students than just about anybody else, is that correct?

Bill Sondervan:  Yeah Leonard, I believe that to be the case.  I think we are the largest public institution.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing, that’s amazing.  Alright, so who’s going to give me an overview of the leadership program?  Bill, you’re going to give a whirl with that as well?

Bill Sondervan:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  Go ahead.

Bill Sondervan:  I’ll be glad to do that Len.

Len Sipes:  Go ahead.

Bill Sondervan:  We have a very unique program and it really is a partnership.  And the partnership I think is what really makes it work.  And that came about at the initiation of Commissioner Fred Bealefeld who is the police commissioner for the city of Baltimore.  When Fred first got appointed, you know, we met through mutual friends.  We knew each other but we met through mutual friends.  And Fred asked to work with us on a problem.  What he wanted to do was to really grow leaders in the city.  And he wanted to take mid-level managers and give them the academic leadership skills to really rise up and do a good job, with the whole purpose of making Baltimore a safer city.  And as a result of that, we worked really hard on it.  And we came up with I think is a really unique program.  And we called it our Criminal Justice Leadership Certificate Program and it fits right into our bachelor’s program in criminal justice.  And we’re going to give credits for those who already have a bachelor’s degree into our master’s program.  And here’s how it works.  It’s broken down into four, four credit classes.  These are academic credits, upper level classes.  Each individual class starts out with a week intensive in the classroom, followed by six weeks in an online environment.  And as part of that, they have papers, they have research, they have journals, they have a lot of academic things that they have to do.  But we also break them up into teams.  We meet with the commissioner and his command staff prior to starting our yearly class.  And they give us real life programs in Baltimore City.  So as part of the process, we break them down into teams and the students have to take the leadership and management skills that they’re learning in class and apply those to real life situations in Baltimore City.  And what really makes it work is the fact that we combine our skilled faculty with the leadership of the department.  The commissioner himself personally comes to every class.  Sometimes we take our class and we go to the police headquarters in downtown Baltimore and the students have to get up in teams and they have to brief the commissioner on solutions to problems.  And the commissioner listens to them, he critiques them, he asks them questions and he gives them follow up things to work on.  And by going through this process, it’s kind of like a fireside chat.  It’s like one of the most amazing learning things that I ever saw.  But by going through this process and at the end of the year by going through four classes, just about every project that we work on, winds up being implemented in Baltimore City and making the police department better and making the city safer.  And I think it’s just really been a remarkable program.

Len Sipes:  Alright, so I want to get two things down.  Number one, as we discussed last time, everything that you’re talking about applies equally to corrections, parole and probation, the court system, the juvenile justice system.  Right now we’re using the Baltimore City police and what you’re doing for them as an example.  But this concept is equally applicable to the entire criminal justice system, correct?

Bill Sondervan:  Yeah, absolutely.  We did this particularly for Baltimore City Police Department, but it’s worked out so well.  The university is very interested in expanding it.  And the management leadership things that we do are generic.  But we can apply them to corrections and parole and probation, juvenile justice or anything in the criminal justice system, by working on projects related to that specific component of the system

Len Sipes:  Alright.

Bill Sondervan: and by using role models and leaders in that particular aspect.

Len Sipes:  And the other point that I want to make clear is that what we’re talking about with this program is mid-level leadership.  Now the whole idea is to take mid-level managers, not just top.  I mean all of us who are talking right now have been in the criminal justice system more years than we would like to admit.  And it’s a military-based system, it’s a hierarchy based system.  And leadership ordinarily comes from above, it comes from political bodies and it comes from the newspapers, but it doesn’t come from sergeants and lieutenants and captains.  So what we’re doing is tasking mid-level managers with these problems and asking them to come up with solutions within an academic setting, is that correct?

Bill Sondervan:  Yes, Leonard and the police department, you know the first level of decision making really is the sergeant.  And our classes are made up of sergeants, lieutenants and deputy majors for the most part because they don’t have captains.  That’s the core of the mid-level managers.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Bill Sondervan:  And they have to actually apply, they have to submit a resume, they have to submit a cover letter saying why they want to be in the program, what they expect to get out of the program and how they’re going to apply what they learned in the program to make the Baltimore City Police Department a better department.  And that goes before the deputy commissioner.  And the deputy commissioner selects the people they want in the class.  It’s capped out at 25 people.  Then with the approval and concurrence of the commissioner, those people are selected to go into class.

Len Sipes:  Okay.  Mark, let’s go over to you for a couple of minutes.  I want to talk about the specifics of the program.  Now I opened up the radio show with a wide variety of topics, Pocket Cop, Predictive Policing with IBM, the foot patrol concept.  But foot patrols have been around forever, so the question’s going to be what’s different here.  Don’t answer yet.  Community outreach, again we’ve been doing community outreach for decades but this is advanced community outreach, what’s different?  So start off with the easy one, Pocket Cop.  That is a really interesting concept, don’t you think?

Mark Desimone:  Well definitely.  I mean imagine a Blackberry on steroids with capabilities of taking, you know, photographs of suspects and doing database searches on face recognition.  They’re actually working on a software app where you’ll be able to put a thumb on the screen and get a fingerprint recognition in real time.

Len Sipes:  You know those three things, stop me for a second or let me stop you for a second, those three things right there would be unbelievable time saver for the average police officer.  I mean the idea of, when I was in enforcement; you had to make a decision whether or not to take a person in.  Sometimes it was an iffy decision and you want to be out there to be available for the calls, to be available for proactive policing.  If you could fingerprint that person, take that thumbprint and find out whether or not that person has warrants or whether or not that person has skipped bail or violated his conditions of parole and probation that would be an unbelievable advantage to the average police officer.

Mark Desimone:  Most certainly.  Imagine taking the photograph of a license plate and doing a vehicle check on them

Len Sipes:  Right.

Mark Desimone:  as you’re walking down the street.

Len Sipes:  Or taking a photograph of him and having a positive identification.

Mark Desimone:  Yeah, it’s incredible and it’s all sorts of officer safety things, you know with the GPS function.  You’ll know exactly where your officers are all the time.

Len Sipes:  And that’s amazing cause you could look at a big screen and figure out where everybody is at the same time.  And in terms of deploying your personnel, that could be amazing.

Mark Desimone:  Oh sure, and their, you know, de-confliction.

Len Sipes:  Yeah, so how close is this to being a reality?

Mark Desimone:  Well with the exception of a couple of, you know, the gee whiz apps that we were talking about, they actually have them in their hands now.

Len Sipes:  That’s amazing.  I mean when you say they, are you talking about the students as part of your leadership program or Baltimore City police across the board?

Mark Desimone:  Baltimore Police Department.

Len Sipes:  Wow, that’s pretty interesting, you know.  There should be more publicity about this.  What else about Pocket Cop that I’m not coming into grips with, anything else?

Mark Desimone:  Well, right now our current fifth cohort is reviewing the GPS capabilities for using the Pocket Cop technology.  They implemented the Pocket Cop in 2008.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Mark Desimone:  And even, you know, in spite of all the success with using the technology, they want to be able to use that GPS functionality for more operational purposes.

Len Sipes:  Alright, so we’re talking about existing technology that the leadership program is figuring out the best use of this technology.

Mark Desimone:  Exactly.  And the task that the group has been given by the commissioner is to research best practices to see if any other police departments are using it.  Baltimore was the first and to our knowledge, we don’t know of anyone else who’s using it.  But to find out if there is anybody else out there, what they’re doing and also to look at some of the ways that the military uses these functionalities.

Len Sipes:  That’s interesting.  Alright, we’re going to go, let me go into Predictive Policing with IBM and then we’re going to go back to Bill for a second.  Talk to me for a little bit about Predictive Policing with IBM.

Mark Desimone:  Well, in February of 2012, IBM and the Baltimore Police Department are entering into an agreement.  They’ll be conducting a six week pilot to test the Predictive Policing model.  They’re going to be doing that in their southwest district.  And this group that’s in the current cohort, has been tasked with implementing the pilot, conducting analysis of its effectiveness and working with an independent researcher to actually, you know, get the stats so that they can determine the efficacy of this Predictive Policing program.  And then of course make recommendations to the commissioner for, you know, future use.

Len Sipes:  Okay as I said,

Mark Desimone:  And

Len Sipes:  Go ahead please.

Mark Desimone:  And if it works, if everything is, you know, if all the stars aligned, you know, they could be using this model on the street in other districts.

Len Sipes:  I just did a radio show a couple of weeks ago with the assistant attorney general of the US Department of Justice and one of the things when I was talking to her about her 10 years’ experience as being assistant attorney general under two administrations.  I said what’s the key finding as to research within law enforcement?  And she said places, a focus on places and that’s what you’re talking about in terms of predictive policing.  You’re talking about figuring out where the next crimes are going to occur but it’s going to be far better than traditional crime analysis.  If I understand this correctly, it’s going to be far more complex and far more predictive.

Mark Desimone:  Yes, it’s more than just pins on a map.  They’ll be able to put all sorts of variables in and to be able to literally use forecasting models to predict, to literally predict where the next crime is going to happen and what kind of crime it’s going to be.  And, you know, it’s a fascinating world we live in with all these computers.

Len Sipes:  Now when you get all of your students in the classroom, are they excited about this?  I mean they’re like, you know, between Pocket Cop and Predictive Policing, you can figure out where to put your folks, you can make the best use of their time which in this day and age of budget cutbacks is extraordinarily important.  You can, in terms of GPS in real-time, figure out where they are, which is by the way a huge officer safety issue.  I mean are they excited about this in terms of trying to figure out the best use of this new technology, the folks in the leadership program?

Mark Desimone:  Oh most definitely.  They see the utility of these things and they’re just so happy to have been invited to the table.  You know you mentioned yourself; it’s a hierarchal organization, so usually subordinate supervisors are told what their goals are and they may have to go out and make sure that everybody else under them, you know, achieves the objectives to achieve the goals.  But what we’re finding now that once you involve these folks who own the processes in coming up with ideas, real world applications that help them to better perform those processes, then what we find is that the excitement levels are really high.

Len Sipes:  Yeah, in six years of law enforcement, I can’t remember anybody coming along and asking my opinion

Mark Desimone:  Right.

Len Sipes:  or my analysis.  Ladies and gentleman, we’re quickly halfway through the program.  Let me reintroduce our guests today, Dr. Bill Sondervan, Professor, Program Director, Criminal Justice Intelligence Management Graduate School, University of Maryland University College, www.umuc.edu, www.umuc.edu, 96,000 students throughout the world.  Dr. Mark DeSimone, he is Professor, UMUC Criminal Justice, lead faculty member of the Leadership Program.  Bill Sondervan, I’m going to go back to you for a couple of minutes before going back to Mark.  In terms of the other specific components of the Leadership Program as they extend now, where do you see this program going and do you see other criminal justice agencies latching onto this concept?

Bill Sondervan:  Well a good question Len, and that’s exactly what we want to do.  I think the leadership at UMUC has really focused in on the value of this program and we really want to expand it.  And we have a person who is in charge of our corporate learning solutions who’s putting together a web page about the program and in the program we’re putting everything about the program to include videos of the graduation ceremony and we’re shortly going to be interviewing the commissioner and having that video in there.  And what they really want to do is make it available to other agencies around the state and around the country and we really want to expand it to corrections, juvenile justice, parole and probation.  And I really have a soft spot in my heart for corrections, being the state corrections commissioner for a very long period of time and there’s a tremendous need there to grow leaders and I can’t think of anything better to do than this.

Len Sipes:  Well, it’s the concept of leadership, is it not?  I mean again we within the criminal justice system get our orders from dare I say the newspaper; dare I say politics, politicians in many cases?  I mean it is, you know, looking at research and coming up with best practices and having ideas bubble up your mid-level management is sort of rare.

Bill Sondervan:  Well, it really is.  And part of it is we don’t give them the opportunity to do so.  There’s some very bright and talented people across the criminal justice spectrum and by doing just what Mark was describing is bringing some of the people together who really want to be there, who really want to make a difference and let them use their creativity and their energy to solve problems is a win-win for everybody.

Len Sipes:  Alright Mark, you ready?  We’re going to go back to you

Mark Desimone:  Yeah.

Len Sipes:  for some of these examples.  Now foot patrols, advanced foot patrols, foot patrols have been around for decades and the next topic, Community Outreach has been around for decades.  What is different about what the folks in the Leadership Program are doing?

Mark Desimone:  Well let me just premise my remarks by saying quickly that foot patrol has been around for decades as you noted and it hasn’t really gone anywhere.  I think the problem is that in recent history, it’s been seen more as like almost non-disciplinary job assignment for those who, you know, who’ve rubbed management the wrong way somewhere around.

Len Sipes:  Yeah, if you screw up, you do foot.

Mark Desimone:  Yeah.  And the commissioner was very clear that that’s got to stop because, you know, that police officer, you know, with the shoes on the street so speak, that’s the way to go.  And so what they did was they had this group get together with a retired police officer who was a gee whiz kind of guy when it came to foot patrol.  There wasn’t anything about it that he didn’t know.  He used to teach these things at the academy.  And so they came up with a way to somehow during the training period, field training etc., to actually get those officers out of the cruisers, in the street, walking around, walking a beat, getting to know the people.  And of course, you know, this does a lot of things because particularly in statistically high crime areas, it gets that police presence that provides to neighborhood stabilization.  And it also the concomitant benefit was you get some of these retired police officers who still have a lot to share back working with the department in a productive manner to share that wisdom that only can come through years of experience.  And before that’s lost forever, you know, they wanted to make sure that that gift was given to the younger officers.  So I would say it’s more or less a renaissance of foot patrol.

Len Sipes:  You know that’s something I didn’t understand in terms of our pre show conversation.  Foot patrol, I mean you know you’re thinking okay the leadership program, you’re thinking an academic program, you’re thinking University of Maryland University College and you keep looking for what’s sexy.  And what’s sexy is maybe reaching back to what worked in past decades and bringing it back and analyzing it and seeing the best utilization of a concept that has been around for decades.  You’re right.  If we don’t bring the retired officers back and they share their knowledge, it gets lost.

Mark Desimone:  Yes, absolutely.  And that’s what’s happening.  And so the commissioner that that is avoided at all costs.  Now it’s more than just suggestions as to how we can improve foot patrol.  It’s a culture change.  How can we change the current culture back to the way the culture was?  You see?

Len Sipes:  Yeah, I do.

Mark Desimone:  Before we lose that cultural memory, so

Len Sipes:  And so go to the next one in terms of community outreach.  Now, again, community outreach is something we’ve been doing for decades when I was with the Department of Justice’s Clearinghouse as the senior specialist for crime prevention many decades ago.  You know, it was reach out to the community, reach out and work with the community.  So this concept and the academic advancement of the concept of working with communities has again been around for decades.  What am I not getting in terms of this discussion?  I didn’t get it in terms of foot patrols until you explained it to me.  What do I need to know, what does the audience need to know about community outreach?

Mark Desimone:  Well first of all, it’s not really community outreach, its community engagement.

Len Sipes:  Engagement.

Mark Desimone:  Yes and the difference between the two, you know you have community policing, community outreach, well this is sort of like the third generation.  Now that we’ve outreached, you know, and we’ve you know, etc., how do we engage?  They have the results of a survey conducted by the University of Baltimore that found that despite historic drops in crime, there is still a very real perception of fear and the potential for crime in the neighborhoods in the city.  And so even though the numbers have dropped, that perception hasn’t changed.

Len Sipes:  You know, I do want to focus on that before you go any further, in all fairness to Baltimore City; they’ve done a phenomenal job in terms of bringing down violent crime, in terms of bringing down homicide.  They are at historic lows but most people discuss Baltimore as having a continual crime problem.  So how do you get beyond that?

Mark Desimone:  Well first of all, the commissioner has set an internal goal for improving the department’s level of community engagement.  And the focus is on improving those perceptions of the department and how it operates.  So it’s more than, you know, community outreach.  We’re actually going to gauge the community how can we, what do we need to do in order to change those perceptions?  And they’re actually involving community leaders in things like that.  Now of course the team is still working on it, so I don’t know what their suggestions are going to be.

Len Sipes:  Well, I’ve got a suggestion for you.

Mark Desimone:  Sure.

Len Sipes:  Tell them to do social media.  Tell them to do exactly what it is we’re doing right now.  I mean the advances of doing video and audio and putting it on a computer and offering it to the citizens of the City of Baltimore and beyond is basically exactly what we’re doing now for DC and the nation.  So just keep that in mind.

Mark Desimone:  Absolutely.  And you know the Baltimore Police Department is actually involved in social media.  So that’s actually a part of what the commissioner has tasked this group with.  See he wants them to do research into national best practices in community engagement, including things such as social media and make recommendations on successful programs.  So there’s going to be some benchmarking here.

Len Sipes:  Okay, so I’m going to go back to Bill for a couple of seconds and then we’re going to end up talking about the task force on commercial robbery.  Bill, let me go back to you for a second.  We’ve talked several times about doing an assessment of national research, doing an assessment of the state of the arts.  So these students are truly being trained in the academic tradition of going back to the research, looking at the research, absorbing the research, absorbing the lessons and see how they can apply to the various communities in Baltimore City.  So it’s truly an academic exercise.

Mark Desimone:  Yeah, absolutely Len.  It’s just like writing a thesis or dissertation.  The first thing you want to do is you want to review the literature.  You want to find out what’s going on in the world.  And you don’t want to reinvent the wheel.  You want to see what’s out there, what people are doing, how effective it is and then from there, once you’ve gathered all that, then you can start working on your project and incorporating it.  And what’s really kind of neat with UMUC, we have an online library that’s right in our learning software.  And so the students can actually just click on library and go into our database and they can get just as many things as you could out of any other library, any university in the world and basically research online and download what they need and basically pull it all together.  It’s really very interesting.

Len Sipes:  Alright, I will note that your library carries this show, radio and television show with a blog and transcript as do dozens of universities throughout the country and throughout the world.  But I mean this is different for them.  So it’s not just gee we have this problem, I don’t know what to do.  Now they’re tasked with and your point at the very beginning makes much greater sense now that the commissioner is attending a lot of these sessions is that they come in and they say this is what I found through my review of research.  And by the way, I think that this is going to apply to our particular set of circumstances, but they’re not doing this in an environment that’s apart from the leadership, the leadership is there.

Bill Sondervan:  Absolutely.  I mean this is rigorous academic learning.  And the students are going to have to do what any other student would have to do at any other university.  It’s very organized, it’s very disciplined and we teach them how to research, we teach them how to write, we teach them how to use the computer and how to get up in front of people and brief, how to work together in teams.  It’s pulling together all those different things that come together to make that leader of the future.

Len Sipes:  Alright, Mark we have three minutes left, so going to need some time to close, so the final thing that we talked about was the task force on commercial robberies.  Once again, like foot patrols, like community outreach, commercial robberies, that sort of effort has been around for decades.  So the new thing, and you’ve educated me, I’ve challenged you in all three and you’ve educated me on all three to my heart’s content.  What am I missing about the task force on commercial robberies?

Mark Desimone:  Well the most important thing is to note that this project team helped to establish strategies to reduce commercial robberies in the entire city of Baltimore.  And they did this by proposing a pilot.  And this pilot project basically would gather, what they did was they gathered information and data and analyzed statistics that were, you know, being generated in the field over a period of time.  And this was used to help create effective deployment strategies.  So we only have so many resources.  So what’s the best way to deploy those resources so as to stem the tide of commercial robberies?

Len Sipes:  Give me an idea of what we’re talking about.  How do you stem the tide of commercial robberies?

Mark Desimone:  Well one of the things that they came up with was flexibility in investigations and creative combinations of different operational functions within the police department.  Some of which, you know, sometimes we usually don’t talk to each other.  But getting all the resources available before the crime is committed to focus on ways of being able to make sure that they function better as the operations are actually going down.

Len Sipes:  Is the focus on the offender or is the focus on getting the people at the 7-11 to know to take the signs down from the windows so they have a clear line sight from the street so a robber can’t hide behind, you know, the obstructions hanging on the windows?  What is it?

Mark Desimone:  Well, it’s all of the above.

Len Sipes:  Okay.

Mark Desimone:  And that’s the beautiful part about it.  They take a very holistic approach to it.  And then what they do is they identify those critical components that are necessary for not only just the deployment of resources, but they also to analyze the effectiveness of these deployments and these resources.  They also look at, and this is I think really neat.  They look at the whole idea of being able to educate others, you know, now that this crew has been educated on how to develop, you know, a squad if you will that’s going to just investigate robberies, commercial robberies.  Now how do we educate others in the department so that they can use new technology and new methodologies to be able to enhance their abilities to combat the problem?

Len Sipes:  Bill, you’ve got 30 seconds.  From what I understand from Mark is that what we’re talking about is not necessarily a process.  What we’re talking about is a holistic approach to everything that we’re doing.  So it’s just not, traditionally in the past a piece here, a piece there is putting the multiple pieces together for the common good, for the greatest impact.

Bill Sondervan:  Absolutely Leonard.  And also what we’re doing is trying to create a better culture within the police department to encourage people to be problem solvers and critical thinkers, to encourage people to go on to get their academic degrees and do all the things necessary so they could step into those leadership positions, hit the ground running and just do a great job.

Len Sipes:  Okay, you got the final word, Dr. Bill Sondervan, Professor, Program Director Criminal Justice Intelligence Management Graduate School, UMUC and Dr. Mark DeSimone, Professor UMUC Criminal Justice, lead faculty and the Leadership Program.  Ladies and gentlemen this is DC Public Safety, we thank you for all of your input.  We thank you for your comments and please everybody, have yourselves a pleasant day.

[Audio Ends]

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