Before becoming Chief of Police at the San Antonio Police Department on April 17, 2006, Chief William McManus spent the majority of his career in Washington, D.C., with the Metropolitan Police Department. He served in a variety of street and investigative assignments before being promoted in 2002 to Assistant Chief of the MPD. Afterwards, McManus became Chief of Police in Dayton, Ohio, where he served from 2001 to 2004. From Dayton, he travelled to Minneapolis where he served as Chief from 2004 to 2006 before coming to San Antonio, Texas. He recently spoke with Dispatch staff writer Danielle Ouellette.
CP Dispatch: In 2009 the San Antonio Police Department received a $10 million COPS Hiring Recovery Program (CHRP) grant from the COPS Office that enabled you to hire 50 new police officers. In what ways did the police department effectively implement that funding in order to promote increased public safety and community policing? In other words, what have been the most successful community policing initiatives in San Antonio from this CHRP grant and why?
Chief McManus: Well, we were looking to do some significant work in the neighborhoods and to have that followed up by economic development on the Eastside of the city. So we took our 50 COPS grant police officers and we came up with this Problem Oriented Policing (POP) Project, which we deployed on the Eastside. We developed, or created, a task force consisting of different city departments to include: animal care, code enforcement services, public works, solid waste removal, and department of community initiatives. We created this task force that was able to craft a plan and, ultimately, craft our approach to addressing the crime and quality of life issues. We would meet once every week to plan the targets, plan our next move, talk about the previous week, what we needed to follow up on, what worked, and what didn’t work so well. For about a year afterwards, we focused on that area in that way using that task force approach, that community oriented government approach if you will, to address the crime and quality of life issues. I guess I could say that we had a lot of happy customers when we were finished!
CP Dispatch: Can you provide any statistical data on the effect that your police department’s strategies for community policing have had on crime rates in San Antonio, or any other data related to the increased public safety?
Chief McManus: We had a double digit decrease in violent crime (16 percent) and a high single digit decrease in property crime (9.5 percent) in the areas that we worked the POP Project. There were quite a few numbers of assaults and murders in that area before we started, but our numbers revealed that murders decreased by 21 percent and deadly conduct (assault with a deadly weapon) decreased by 23 percent after the implementation of the POP Project, and without displacement of such crimes either.
We made a very significant impact on chronic long term problems on the Eastside as well. Crime such as prostitution and other entrenched problems that we’ve been dealing with for years saw an increase in arrests, with prostitution arrests increasing by 32 percent, and drug arrests up by 10 percent.
Other interesting statistics include: decreases in robbery by 25 percent, decreases in burglary by 10 percent, decreases in criminal mischief (vandalism) by 10.7 percent, and increases in officer initiated activity (i.e., arrests) by 9.39 percent.
CP Dispatch: From your experience, what are some things that are necessary to maintain such a successful community policing program(s) or initiative(s)?
Chief McManus: It’s easy to get distracted, and I think you really need to focus on maintaining that community policing philosophy. You have really got to make sure that the officers don’t start getting deployed for other reasons in other areas. You’ve really got to keep your eye on what you’re doing and focus on the initiative that you set out to do. There has to be a game plan before you go into it, or what I just spoke about in regard to becoming distracted happens much more easily. I would just say in brief, that you’ve just got to make sure that you follow it up and make sure that everyone understands what the goal is and what the mission is.
CP Dispatch: In regard to other police departments who may recognize San Antonio’s success with what has been implemented, what advice would you give them if they wish to try a similar approach?
Chief McManus: I think what distracts departments from maintaining focused community policing efforts are their calls to service. You’ve got to make sure that your calls for service are going to get taken care of, and once that is in place, whatever additional resources you have need to be dedicated to the community policing and problem-solving effort.
CP Dispatch: What are your future goals to improve community policing strategies even further in San Antonio? Have any new programs or initiatives been started in pursuit of these goals?
Chief McManus: We are looking to expand what we did on the Eastside. Currently, each substation commander in each of the six substation areas are being asked for at least one community policing or problem-oriented policing initiative that they are undertaking, and then we follow those through and track the numbers.
Secondly, when you go to neighborhood meetings and you’ve got folks sitting there who might be angry about what’s going on in the neighborhood, and why is it still going on when they’ve been complaining about it for years, the typical police response is: we will send in a lot of officers, increase patrol and visibility, or we’ll do an undercover operation. After we do that for a little while and things calm down, we kind of dust our hands off and go on to the next project; handling it the same exact way. And that is typically how we do it in law enforcement, and we have done it that way for years. Unfortunately, when you go into these neighborhood meetings, folks don’t want to hear that. They want to hear something different; they want to hear something new. And as I’ve been talking about problem-oriented policing, how it works and how it can address the issues in the neighborhoods that I’m talking to, people are excited! People are really excited! So we encourage neighborhoods to work with their officers, to identify problems, prioritize them, and then once that’s done, we come up with a strategy to deal with them. We don’t spend a lot of time chasing our tails around just handling a call to a particular area, and then go on back and handle the next call. We look to resolve the issues at their root and hopefully we will have a long lasting effect from those efforts.
That is what our future plans are in regard to continuing the community policing. We started off with a community policing philosophy almost 2 years ago and we are shaping our department to operate under that type of philosophy. Everything from our general manual to our way of thinking; it’s all focused on community policing and how we can advance that philosophy.
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