Master plan will serve as a foundation for future policy decisions

Published in the March 15 – 28, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By David Swing

Police Chief David Swing

On days when I’m lucky enough to join an officer on patrol or meet with one or more community members, I feel fortunate to serve this community as your police chief. As you’re well aware, Morgan Hill is a safe city with a great quality of life and a strong spirit of community.

Our city council recognizes that public safety is a key component of Morgan Hill’s quality of life and has identified “enhancing public safety” as the highest ongoing priority for our community. The members of the police and fire departments work daily to ensure Morgan Hill remains safe. From a law enforcement perspective, we strive to respond to calls for service and engage in proactive policing working closely with the community. From the perspective of fire and emergency medical personnel, they work tirelessly to ensure our community remains prepared for a fire-related or medical event.

Our residents actively support our efforts, and in a 2015 Community Priorities Survey, public safety was identified as a top priority for our community. The police and fire departments both have effective working partnerships with the community and many times call upon our community to resolve issues together. As a result, Morgan Hill has a lower than average crime rate in our region and fire maintains reliable response standards and outcomes.

In order to continue this level of service, both Fire Chief Derek Witmer and I, along with the city council, acknowledge that a strategic approach to public safety that builds upon our existing successes will best meet the current and future needs of our community.

In 2016, the city council commissioned the development of a Public Safety Master Plan (PSMP) to help answer the ongoing questions about the future of police and fire services. The city entered into an agreement with the Center for Public Safety Management as a consultant to identify both immediate and future staffing needs for police and fire. Morgan Hill remains a desirable community with small town charm. However, it is growing and changing and the demands on our police and fire services are increasing.

In 2016, the police department saw a 16 percent increase in calls for service from 2013, and fire and EMS saw a 31 percent increase in service demands from 2013. What does that mean? On the police side, we received about 39,000 calls for service in 2016. That’s about 106 calls for service per day. Therefore, in the development of the PSMP, our consultant examined how the city’s investment in public safety will result in enhancing both police and fire’s ability to meet the growing need for service while leveraging limited resources. We worked with our consultant for several months to identify appropriate staffing based on workload along with benchmarks for future staffing. They evaluated operational effectiveness and efficiencies and analyzed response times for all priority calls for service.

Our consultant made site visits to Morgan Hill to meet with members of each department and key city staff as well as gather operational data. They conducted a thorough analysis that included delving into officer/fire fighter workload, data collection, on-site observation, and comparative analysis. Their analysis also examined some of the benefits/impacts of construction of a third fire station in Morgan Hill.

At its Feb. 22 meeting, the city council reviewed and accepted the PSMP. Our consultant prepared separate reports for the police and fire departments.

Chief Witmer and I made presentations on the findings and recommendations on behalf of the police and fire departments. A few of the highlights of that review are as follows:

1. The police department is a well-managed, service-oriented department that strives to provide outstanding customer service and engage the community

2. The city should continue it contractual relationship with CalFire for protecting its community

3. Morgan Hill should maintain the current advanced life support first-responder services in its response area

4. Implement a quarterly lunchtime “State of the Department” meetings for the public

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5. The city should continue to review when to begin construction of the third fire station and dedicate funds necessary to staff and operate the station. This should be based on staffing, response times and other performance measures

These are just a few of many findings and recommendations identified by our consultant. The PSMP will serve as a foundation for future policy decisions to enhance Morgan Hill’s public safety needs. Chief Witmer and I will work to ensure that as our community grows and changes, we implement best practices and operational strategies to help maintain Morgan Hill’s solid reputation as a safe city. I invite you to view the PSMP on the city’s website.

Please visit www.www.morgan-hill.ca.gov/1600/Public-Safety-Master-Plan

David Swing is the chief officer of the Morgan Hill Police Department. He wrote this guest column for Morgan Hill Life.