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The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell Police Department releases annual report

With 17 members, the Grinnell Police Department looks after a population of 9,027 people. As part of its obligation to the community, the police puts out an annual report on crime statistics in the Grinnell community.

According to the department’s 2018 Annual Report, there has been an overall decrease in calls for service, arrest, sexual abuse investigations, and traffic warnings and citations in Grinnell. There has, however, been an increase in cases investigated including controlled substances, assault and burglary cases, as well as police training and time spent in schools.

In general, the increase in calls for service and cases investigated since 2015 is “directly related to the robust records management system” that the police department switched to in 2015, according to the 2018 report. This system “automatically creates a case based on certain call for service types, in particular allegations of crimes against persons and property crimes.”

Each case has to be reviewed by an officer, so in 2017 the department started using a case screening process, following up on prioritized cases first. These cases have a higher frequency of occurrence, witnesses, and suspect-identifying forensic evidence, which makes cases easier to solve.

“We had 1,300 investigations last year, with nine or 10 officers responsible for not only investigations but also covering the daily requirements of service. We need to focus on offenses that are serious in nature or ones that are a trend, like thefts,” said Dennis Reilly, Chief of the Grinnell Police Department. “And in Grinnell, one of the biggest criminal activities is petty or retail theft. The police department actively works to prevent and gain more information on crime density, to efficiently map out patrols and prevention strategies.”

In 2018, the police spent almost double the hours in schools as the years before. Reilly said officers want to make sure that the youth and public of Grinnell feel safe and comfortable talking to them, especially after the increase in recent years of school shootings and distrust of law enforcement.

“If there’s something going on, when an officer comes in, the [faculty, staff and students] feel comfortable speaking to the officer,” Reilly said. Furthermore, the increased police presence at schools ensures that anyone planning questionable activity is aware of the police, and while the police are there, they assess the building and point out weak spots in security in the schools and help to implement plans to rectify those spots.

Another trend in 2018 was the increase of hours of police training. The officers are constantly updated on the state and federal law changes and the best practices via their Daily Training Bulletins.

In 2018, a peer support program that supplies 24/7 advice to officers that want to process an adverse event on the job or troubles at home started.

Reilly said, “We’ve got officers that are trained in individual and group therapy. Generally speaking, law enforcement across the country are facing an increase of suicide, and the divorce rate is always high.”

In 2019, the GPD would like to expand this peer support program as part of a statewide effort. They also hope to make a chaplain program available for officers to perform religious services or sensitive tasks, such as delivering a death notification to a family with a clergyman. It is an opportunity for those uncomfortable speaking to police officers but comfortable speaking to the clergy to inform the police of what is happening in the community.

Another focus is accountability, a response to rising distrust of police in recent years. “Hopefully within the next couple weeks, we will be installing a new in-car body-worn camera system. We have video [inside and outside] patrol cars. Our officers wear body cameras, but they’re not integrated. This system will provide us with an integrated system.”

Another 2019 objective of the department is communication. The police is looking for volunteers to monitor the department Facebook page’s comments, in case there are inappropriate remarks on the posts.

The police want to communicate better with Grinnell students as well. If Grinnell College students, or others, are interested in learning more about the police department, they can apply for the Citizens’ Police Academy through the Grinnell Police Department Facebook page or call the department and ask for Officer Doane. It runs from March to May, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, each week tackling a different simulated scenario the police might encounter. As of now, students can sign up for notifications when the City declares snow emergencies.

The police is constantly trying to keep up to date with training, new techniques, and outreach to the community. According to Reilly, the department wants to do the best job it can, whether that’s through operational efficiency, using data such as the case screening process and records management system to make decisions, or increased trust between the citizens of Grinnell and the police. “I’m not ready to sit back and say, ‘We’ve reached a plateau.’ I don’t believe in plateaus,” Reilly said.

Dennis Reilly, pictured here, became Chief of Police in Grinnell in 2012. Photo by Helena Gruensteidl.
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