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Palo Alto Police Department Accomplishments & Work Underway To Enhance Public Information and Further Public Safety Priorities

Learn more about the recent Palo Alto Police Department annual update at the April 4 City Council meeting

2021 Crime Stats & Public Safety Priorities

The Police Department typically responds to more than 50,000 calls for service annually, though calls have been lower during the pandemic. The Palo Alto Police Department 24-hour dispatch center’s call volume is second only to the San Jose Police Department in Santa Clara County. Call volume is driven by the multidisciplinary nature of Palo Alto’s dispatch center, which not only supports Palo Alto police and fire, but also Stanford campus public safety, Palo Alto animal control officers, and calls for Palo Alto Utilities and Public Works.

Dispatch Center Calls

  • The 24-hour dispatch center processed over 137,000 calls in 2021, 38,346 of which were emergency calls and 38,189 of which were calls for service for the Police Department
  • 99% of all emergency calls were answered within 10 seconds

Crime Statistics

Palo Alto continues to be a very safe community.

  • Palo Alto experienced the fewest overall crimes in the past 3 years
  • Property crimes remain the most common type of crime in Palo Alto

Hiring + Staff

The Department has been actively recruiting for a broad applicant pool and continues to have success hiring staff with diverse backgrounds. Currently, as one form of highlighting that diversity, the Department has 32 police staff who are cumulatively bilingual in 11 languages beyond English (Spanish, German, Korean, Russian, Mandarin, Urdu, Tagalog, Portuguese, Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Farsi). This allows the Department to better engage with the diverse Palo Alto community.

Online Police Reports + Media Inquiries

The Department’s online reporting tool was widely used in 2021, resulting in 1,340 online reports and 2,010 hours of saved staff time. In addition, the Police Department’s online Public Information Portal includes the Police Report Log, which gives information on police reports processed the previous day. That log is published every business day.

2021 Initiatives & Accomplishments

Started the new Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT)

The Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT) is comprised of a police officer partnered with a licensed mental health clinician and “combines the unique resources available from each profession to provide the highest quality service we can offer to someone who’s having a mental health crisis,” said Chief Jonsen. It was launched in conjunction with the Santa Clara County Behavioral Health Services Department in November 2021.

Implemented a records management system featuring electronic field reporting

The Department launched a new internal electronic records management system in December 2021. Converting to this system provided many important benefits, including:

  • Reducing paper waste and increasing staff efficiency
  • Allowing officers to complete their reports digitally (in patrol cars or in the police station) and submit them to their supervisors electronically
  • Providing an interface for officers to comply with the provisions of RIPA (Racial and Identity Profiling Act)

Launched a new Police Calls for Service Interactive Map

The Department launched a new beta online interactive map which provides a near real-time snapshot of the types and locations of calls for service to which Palo Alto Police have responded. The map draws data directly from the Department’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system and was created as an alternative to unencrypted communication after the California Department of Justice began requiring encrypted radio communication.

Collaborated with the Independent Police Auditor (IPA) to implement an expanded scope of services

The IPA is an independent, third-party contractor who conducts secondary reviews of the Department’s investigations regarding police contacts, complaints and personnel. Historically, the IPA reviewed Police Department investigations relating to public complaints, Department-initiated internal affairs investigations, and all TASER deployments.

  • Use of force reports (where a baton, chemical agent, TASER, less-lethal projectile, canine, or firearm is used)
  • Any other use of force report if a subject is injured and needs any treatment beyond minor medical treatment in the field
  • Internal complaints against sworn officers regarding misconduct related to harassment, discrimination, or retaliation

Complied with California Department of Justice Mandate & Radio Encryption Update

Also, at the Council meeting, the Chief provided an update on law enforcement agencies across the state having to comply with the California Department of Justice (DOJ) mandate prohibiting the transmission of Personally Identifying Information (PII) over unencrypted radio channels. In response, law enforcement agencies, including the Palo Alto Police Department, have updated their radio communications to an encrypted frequency. The Police Department made this change in January 2021, the eighth law enforcement agency in Santa Clara County to encrypt at that time. Sixteen agencies have made similar changes.

Looking ahead

  • Continue to improve the Department’s recruitment, hiring, and retention processes
  • Continue to focus on the suppression of crime and the apprehension of criminals
  • Continue to share accurate information about police activities with the public and media partners in a prompt and responsive manner

More Online Resources

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