Police chief addresses crime rate, use of force shown in 2021 annual report
Word of the day: Community Policing
A law enforcement program in which police officers ... work with residents in preventing crime.
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Community policing. In Merriam-Webster.com legal dictionary. Retrieved March 9, 2022, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/legal/community%20policing
"In a nation where law enforcement is under scrutiny, where law enforcement is under pressure, where communities are seeing rapid crime increases — I'm proud to tell you we're going the other direction," Hot Springs Police Chief Chris Chapmond told the Hot Springs National Park Rotary Club last week while giving the department's 2021 Annual Report.
"Really, really proud of this. ... We're putting most everybody to shame."
Chapmond, who moved back to Hot Springs in 2020, and was sworn in as police chief in May of 2021, said when he came back City Manager Bill Burrough gave him a mandate.
"He said some things have to change, and I agreed with him," Chapmond said. "I'd been here 22 years prior to retiring, and I'd seen what was going on and I had my fingerprint on a lot of different things, but now I had the opportunity to make some changes. I've got a great staff, a great workforce, and we had the opportunity early on to be ahead of the curve just a little bit."
A crime reduction strategy was implemented in 2020, making 2021 the first full year of the program being implemented.
The report showed that out of 10 major crime categories in a 3-year comparison, six were down.
"Fantastic in the world we live in," Chapmond said. "But the thing that I'm most proud of is we're down double digits in every violent crime category that we have. That is unheard of."
Check it out, here:
"Guys, that changes the way people see us," Chapmond said. "Everybody knows that occasionally we make these lists that state we're the worst in the country at this, that or this; well we're not, OK? We live in a vibrant, safe community.
"We live in a safer community now than we did two years ago, and that's because of the hard work of the men and women of the Hot Springs Police Department, the support of the City Board, the City Manager and city leadership to give us the tools we need to do our jobs. So we're extremely proud of those numbers."
Chapmond also addressed the numbers for "use of force" by officers shown in the report.
"If you watch the national media, we go out there and use force all the time, right? Every time we deal with somebody they're getting put on the ground, they're getting tased, they're in a shooting — that's not the truth."
"... We answered 52,000 calls for service last year. ... One out of every 1,300 calls we go on, we had to use some kind of physical force. That is one of the lowest averages I've seen in this state, and in this region.
"Now why is the use of force so low? Because you have some of the best trained officers in the state of Arkansas — actually in the tri-state region — right here in your hometown. Our officers go through de-escelation training, bias-based police training, a lot of tactical training, a lot of training that leads them to a successful solution instead of a violent encounter.
"Our number one job, when we go to a situation, is to de-escelate that situation. Obviously we're very successful. Less than 1% — less than a tenth of a percent. Pretty amazing what our officers do.
"And if you'll notice, discharge of firearm? Zero. That's a great number. No serious officer injuries last year? Really, really proud of that."
Chapmond said 31,212 training hours were completed by the department in 2021.
"We are the best trained agency in the state of Arkansas — hands down. That's a lot of hours, folks. The state of Arkansas mandates that certified law enforcement officers complete 24 hours of training a year. We're closer to 100. And some officers, depending on their assignment, are twice — three times — that much. We're going to know our jobs."
Prior to 2020, Chapmond said the department never had a strategic plan.
"So, we put together — year one — a five-year strategic plan. We redefined our mission statement, our commitment statement, our core values.
"... It's very dedicated to community policing, which is my core philosophy. I like putting bad guys in jail, I do; we have people in our community that need to be put in jail. But the only way we can successfully police in any community in this country is with a very close partnership with our citizens, and you can't do that without having a strong basis in community policing."
The redefined mission statement, commitment statement and core values are as follows:
Mission Statement The mission of the Hot Springs Police Department is to enhance the quality of life in our community by ensuring the safety and wellness of all citizens, visitors, and employees. We will conduct ourselves with honesty, integrity, and fairness while holding our staff to the highest professional standards within the law enforcement community.
Commitment Statement As members of the Hot Springs Police Department, we are committed to:
Protecting the constitutional rights of all people
Providing professional service to all citizens and visitors
Using current technology, modern tactics, and law enforcement best-practices to determine our operational methodology
Transparency and accountability to all
"One of the reasons we do this report is to be completely transparent," Chapmond said. "We use to not do this in law enforcement, and honestly we should have been doing this for a long time.
"I want you to know what we're doing. We have nothing to hide. I want you to see the good, the bad, the ugly. If those numbers were just the opposite, we'd sit here and have that conversation too.
"If you know me, I'm not afraid to have a conversation. If we're doing something wrong, we're doing everything we can to fix it. If we're doing something right, I'm going to brag on my people.
"This report's got a lot of things in it we're doing right. I want you to know that so you can brag on your police department. We're very fortunate living in a community that supports its law enforcement officers.
"I'll brag on my board of directors ... we went to the board last night and got $2.37 million in additional funding that we didn't ask for because we're doing our jobs. People see that we're doing our jobs. They want us to continue doing our jobs.
"Our Board of Directors showed their support for their local law enforcement by funding about 12 new projects last night that we did not have funding for. If we weren't out there making a difference, that conversation's probably not taking place.
"If we didn't live in a community that supported us, and believed in what we're doing; if we didn't have trust and legitimacy within our own community, that wouldn't have happened. So we should be very proud we live in a community just like we do."
Click here to view the full 2021 Annual Report.