he Yorkville Police Department had been struggling to get the patrol division to buy into the crime prevention philosophy for years. Although patrol officers would follow orders and assist in a community project when necessary, they had not been self-motivated to initiate and complete any community crime prevention efforts of their own. There was a stigma attached to this community policing effort and it was looked down upon and construed as a nonpolicing activity by the core officers. The administration's problem was to change the view of this important policing technique. The mindset needed to be changed to create a team effort and not to rely on one officer to complete the crime prevention program for the entire city.
Yorkville started to grow in the last five years, nearly doubling the employees of the police department. With growth the department adopted an evaluation process along with numerous other administrative tasks. The evaluation process was seen as the key to the problem and finding a winning combination of need and want for each officer. Several options were considered as means of developing this winning combination and the awarding of time off was selected as the recognition for accomplishments.
The recognition award had been determined, so the next step was to organize a committee and task it with identifying the crime prevention and community policing programs that the patrol officers could accomplish but were not completing on their own initiative. The specific problem areas identified by the committee were neighborhood watch, citizen police academy, and quarterly neighborhood watch captains meetings. The neighborhood watch program was broken down further to maintenance of existing watches and of creating new watch programs. These areas were difficult to keep activated because of a lack of participation from the patrol officers.
To facilitate the time-off reward program, the natural shift rotation that created the current squads was followed; this would make any reward a team effort. Although the officer would individually be evaluated, the team as a whole would earn the time off. The squads would be rated by the amount of points obtained by each unit. Each program was assigned a certain number of points to be awarded; the accumulation of points was needed to earn the extra hours off. Points were distributed according to the importance and complexity of each specific program. By working as a team to accomplish their goals, the officers would not only help themselves personally but also improve the appeal of community policing to other officers and strengthen the camaraderie of the police department.
The patrol sergeants would be in charge of motivating their respective squad, which could include buying lunch for their officers after they reach certain goals. The point system was not designed to accumulate a certain amount from each category but to obtain the amount of points needed to reach the squad's goal in earning time off. Success of the program is evident in the number of new neighborhood watch groups created and in the number of citizens recruited for the citizens police academy classes.
In the first year after implementation of the time-off reward program, Yorkville's neighborhood watch groups increased by 200 percent. The neighborhood watch program is more up-to-date and healthier than they have ever been. The real success, though, was in the officers' new commitment to the philosophy of community policing. Once the officers got involved and witnessed the success of these programs in the community, officers no longer looked at it as a distasteful activity. The officers are now armed with new knowledge that in turn creates a cycle of new programs. ■