Police to implement new command areas

GLENDALE — A new policing strategy that will divide the city into four command areas is scheduled to take effect Oct. 11, police officials said.

The new strategy is part of a reorganization of the Police Department spurred in large part by the deep citywide budget cutting early this summer and should lead to stronger ties between beat patrol officers and the communities in their respective districts, officials said.

Under the new structure, Glendale will be divided into four command areas to be overseen by a lieutenant who will coordinate regular patrols and targeted enforcement to address specific community needs and trends, said Interim Police Chief Ron De Pompa.

“Area command is intended to do a couple of critical things — one, to give 24-7 responsibility for a geographic area to a police lieutenant and in doing so, hopefully be more responsive to the small issues before they can become big issues, and secondarily, to more effectively engage the public in that process,” De Pompa said.

While there will only be four initial districts — north, south, east and west — the department plans to expand the system and add another district for downtown Glendale, he said.

Lt. Ian Grimes will oversee north Glendale, Lt. Susan Hayn will have the west side of the city, Lt. Tony Futia will supervise the east side, and Lt. Brian Cohen will manage south Glendale.

Each lieutenant has expertise in the area's common problems, Capt. Kirk Palmer said.

“They are going to have to pay attention to and address the issues that are going on in their area, but they are also going to be responsible for part of the watch-base system, and they are going to have to find ways to get those two systems to integrate as best they can,” De Pompa said.

Lieutenants will have a watch shift, a lead community officer and be in charge of assigning department resources to deal with problems in their areas, he added.

The department's recent staffing and budget reductions led to the dismantling of the Community Oriented Policing Program, but the officers will assume similar roles under the new area command.

The area commanders will be a “single point of accountability to solve the problem,” which De Pompa said will benefit residents who need only contact one person rather than dealing with several entities.

“In one way, it's going to make us responsible for one area of the city, but at the same time, we are still going to be responsible for seeing that calls for service are answered appropriately for the entire city,” Futia said.

The new area command will also allow for greater communication and cooperation between lieutenants since, he said, they will have to share resources to address issues in their own districts.

“I have always felt that I have always been responsible to everybody in the city as an officer, a sergeant and certainly as a lieutenant, and I am not nervous about it,” Futia said. “It's just going to be a different way of conducting business.”

The concept of area command has been bounced around the department for several years.

“Area command is more than just an organizational structure, it's a management philosophy,” Palmer said. “That's truly the basis for what we are trying to do, and that management philosophy says that we are going to hold those managers accountable, who have the greatest degree of control over resources, for understanding the unique problems?.?.?.?what it's not is a substitute for 9-1-1.”

Police officials had wanted to start a pilot program while the Americana at Brand was being built, but at that time, the city was unable to support adding personnel. This year, City Hall was forced to shed millions from its budget, prompting executives to cut 17 sworn positions from the Police Department's rolls. In turn, police officials used the circumstance to reevaluate their policing methods, De Pompa said.

Department officials decided to take on the challenge of implementing an area command system because they wanted get ahead of crime trends, knowing that they had fewer officers to work with, he added.

“The theme is that, traditionally in law enforcement, we have always hunted with the scatter-gun approach, and that's a lot of resources saturating our areas of responsibility,” De Pompa said. “So instead of hunting with a scatter gun, we've got to learn to hunt with a sniper rifle, and that means we got to be very precise in terms of applying our resources to the problems and issues.”

Police Department officials are scheduled to present their new area command system Tuesday at the City Council meeting.

?VERONICA ROCHA covers public safety and the courts. She may be reached at (818) 637-3232 or by e-mail at veronica.rocha@latimes.com.

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