New recording procedure to increase officer liability
By Chadwick Dolgos
An update implemented earlier this year in how Robinson Township Police record complaints has resulted in a clearer picture of the number of calls members of the department are responding to.
Officers are required to conduct two traffic checks, two business checks, and two school checks while on duty, according to Chief of Police Tim Westwood. These checks are now recorded into the system and added to the complaint count.
“If they weren’t documented, how would I know they were done?” asked Westwood, who hopes the new recording procedure will increase accountability.
During the commissioner’s Oct. 5 meeting, Westwood made his regular report to the board surprising some with the total complaints reported in September as 2,488, bringing the year-to-date number to 10,222. In September 2019, that number had been 1,027.
“Did you say there were [more than] 2,000 complaints?” asked Commissioner Dr. James Mancini. “Wow, I just find that crazy.”
Though the data suggests 49.1% of complaints for 2020 occurred during the months of August and September, Westwood explained the numbers were not unusually high and “crime is not up.”
“Oftentimes our officers were responding to calls without recording them,” Westwood said. As of July, Robinson officers have been recording every complaint as they come through.
The number of complaints has been steadily increasing since May when there were a total of 546 complaints. In June, there were 687 complaints. By July, when officers began recording their checks as completed, there were 1,675 complaints.
A complaint is defined as any time somebody makes a call to the Robinson Township Police or a 911 call regarding an incident in the area.
“When COVID hit, calls dropped drastically,” said Westwood. “We changed our procedures here for walk-ins and traffic checks.”
As the state begins to reopen, officers are receiving more complaints and conducting
more traffic checks. The number of complaints they are receiving, along with the checks being recorded, are not higher than Westwood anticipated, however.
“We’ve responded, on average, to 800 to 1,200 calls per month since I joined,” said Westwood. The number of complaints varies during the time of year, with the highest number of complaints being recorded during the summer months.
Westwood urges people who have complaints in the area to call 911 instead of their offices. “The fastest way to get a police officer, and the best way to do it, is to call 911,” he said.
“I had a couple of people call who left messages over the weekend for incidents that were occurring in their neighborhood,” Westwood said.
“If you call Friday and leave a message on our machines, we don’t get it until Monday morning.
By calling 911, officers are able to respond to a scene more quickly, allowing them to investigate rather than play catch up with the information provided over the weekend. “If you call 911 right away and the officers get there, they have an opportunity to either apprehend a suspect or stop the vehicle at that time.” Westwood said.