APD Rolls out Blue Carpet for Leadership Academy Chief Guthrie Shares Vision, Taste of Police Work
The word “hero” is used quite frequently regarding our first responders, particularly in our post-9/11 world. After the most recent Leadership Academy session, I definitely cannot think of a more fitting term for the men and women who serve us in the Arcadia Police Department and I’m sure my fellow attendees would agree.
The Community Leadership Academy is a new program put on by the city of Arcadia to give residents a feel for the various departments that keep the city working while we all go about our daily lives. All the sessions have been eye opening and informative, and the city staff has been spectacular in planning this. Our latest session at the Arcadia Police Department truly left attendees with a whole new feeling of what it takes to do the dangerous job of police work – culminating in a simulation exercise that was truly mind-blowing.
Police Chief Robert Guthrie
Chief Bob Guthrie and his staff organized an incredibly thorough and engaging session for us. His goal was to leave us with “a better appreciation for what we (APD) do and what we have to do to provide service to the community.” APD processes and responds to approximately 55,000 calls for service annually and that runs the gamut from violent crimes down to “a shopping cart in the corner of a street,” said Chief Guthrie. The department’s primary job is to keep the residents of Arcadia safe and “to respond to your location when you call 9-1-1,” said Guthrie. “Everything else is secondary, but still very important.”
The three components of a successful police department, according to the chief, are: 1) “A strong, dedicated, well-trained, and well-supervised work force” 2) Commitment to collaborative work with other city departments and externally with other regional law enforcement agencies 3) A community plan that “encourages residents and businesses to get involved to help protect the community”
A thorough discussion of each of these points was had, with interesting facts coming to light about the many challenges that face the APD and how the department is utilizing management and technology best practices to overcome these challenges despite having fewer civilian staff and officers on hand due to the general economic condition of the state. AB109, the state’s prison-overcrowding early release law, has put more and more pressure on local law enforcement to deal with repeat offenders who know that sentencing for non-violent crimes like property theft are likely to lead to shorter prison time served.
Observing Arcadia Police dispatchers
In Arcadia while violent crime is low, having the 210 freeway cut right across our city and having a large regional mall contribute to property crime. The department proactively responded to AB109 by establishing stronger working relationships across the region with other departments. “Our crime can no longer be divided by borders,” said the chief. “Our suspects are more transitory than ever.” In response, local law enforcement leaders realize “our problems are your problems and we need to work together to protect ALL of our citizens,” he continued. APD houses the West San Gabriel Valley Anti-Crime Task Force (also known as the AB109 Team) which is comprised of 7 agencies including Arcadia, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Monrovia, El Monte, Monterey Park, and L.A. County Probation.
Chief Guthrie and his administration have made engaging with the community a top priority as well. APD has restructured the Community Affairs Office, which oversees the Neighborhood Watch program, amongst others. The latest effort out of this group led by my fellow Academy classmate and APD Community Service Officer Mike Vercillo was the chief’s “See Something – Say Something” campaign. The campaign encourages Arcadians to pick up the phone and report anything that looks out of place, and seeks to reduce the barriers to communication. “We need residents and business owners to help us, we can’t be everywhere at all times,” said Chief Guthrie. “You are not bothering us…just call.” The campaign has led to arrests of criminals who were actually caught in the act by alert residents.
APD’s significant efforts in utilizing technology were also presented, including a host of social media tools that APD engages in from Nixle to CrimeMapping.com to the MyPD application available for cell phones. Chief Guthrie also shared the department’s new emphasis on using technology to do “predictive policing” and proactively respond to trends that present themselves through analysis of crime data. These techniques contributed to a significant reduction of residential burglaries around the holidays last year in a certain section of Arcadia as APD was able to recognize localized trends and deploy resources accordingly.
The session continued with a tour of the department’s facilities including the dispatch center (which fields all 9-1-1 calls), the briefing room, the jail, and the armory. APD also has its own shooting range, which gives our officers a chance to train monthly – a benefit and opportunity that some L.A. County police departments do not necessarily enjoy.
In Arcadia we often hear about how well-run the city is, and that was more than apparent from the tour of department’s headquarters. From the building itself to the shooting range to the gym, you could connect how city leadership has definitely prioritized our public safety by looking at all the investment that has gone into the APD infrastructure and the actual officers and civilian staff.
To close off this impressive session, Chief Guthrie and his staff decided to give us all a taste of actual field work via a high-tech laser simulator that APD has. After the whole class warmed up with laser-sited dummy guns on target practice games that included pheasants and ground-hogs (think Nintendo Duck Hunt from the 80’s) and bulls eyes, we were each allowed to go on a simulated call for service that was projected in front of us on a wall.
Three by three our class encountered things that come up in the real world. It went from video game fun to very, very real in a second. While it was a simulation it actually felt real. In addition to scenarios where some of us did not have to fire our weapons, or should not have fired our weapons, we also experienced scenarios where a stumbling intoxicated guy in a military jacket props himself up on a wall, you ask him to turn around and he has a gun and shoots you. A call for loud noise at a party ends up with a scuffle, out of the corner of the room a party-goer comes out of nowhere and shoots you. A routine parole check leads to a shooting when the parolees friend comes out of the other room, pistol in hand. An active shooting at a school occurs and you have to go in and deal with it. The scenarios may seem sterile on paper (or on your monitor) but I assure you for all of us who participated in the simulation, the stress, the adrenaline, and the fear felt real.
That was perhaps the best way to give us some small taste or sense of what police do when they don the badge. Hopefully they do not ever have to pull their guns out of their holster – but hopes are hopes and they never know when they wake up what they are going to walk into. Intellectually I think we all know that, but to feel it was very different. It was a very visceral experience that drove the point home that we all have a lot to be grateful for with regards to the men and women of the department, and for those concerned residents who want to help there is much we can do to support them.
To get a “See Something, Say Something” decal, or to volunteer with APD, click here for more information or call (626) 574-5173.
— By Glenn Oyoung Glenn Oyoung is a resident of Arcadia and volunteers with Arcadia’s Best Foundation, the Arcadia Chamber of Commerce, and is a member of Arcadia Rotary. He is a co-founder of the Carcadia at Route 66 event held on the fourth Sunday of every month behind Arcadia Denny’s and loves all things automotive.