Ask a Cop: Quotas, stats & directed patrols

Illustration by Emma Crevier

Welcome to the second edition of Watershed Voice’s Ask a Cop series with Det. Sgt. Sam Smallcombe of the Three Rivers Police Department.

Smallcombe will answer questions from readers and WSV staff alike twice a month to provide a platform “for information sharing” and “clearing up misconceptions.” If you have a question you would like to ask the detective, email Watershed Voice at [email protected], message us on our Facebook page or give us a call at (269) 244-6055.

The following interview was conducted via email over the course of four days from May 27 to May 30 between Executive Editor Alek Haak-Frost and Det. Sgt. Sam Smallcombe.

Alek Haak-Frost (AHF): The following question comes from Watershed Voice reader Christi Ames:
“Do cops really have quotas? Due at the end of the month? I know I believed this as a child but now that I’m an adult I thought it was false.”

Det. Sgt. Sam Smallcombe (SS): Great question. The short answer is no and for most other departments that I know, the answer is no as well. There is a reasonable expectation that officers do traffic enforcement and write citations as a part of their job but we don’t attach a number. 

We give officers discretion on whether to write a citation. There are some situations that we expect the officer to write a citation such as at a traffic crash where one driver is more at fault than the other driver or in the case of drivers under the influence, we expect them to arrest that driver to take them off the street.

Another example would be directed patrol. For example, Portage Avenue between North Main Street and Hoffman Street the speed limit is 25 mph because it is a dense residential area. We get a lot of residents from that neighborhood who complain about speeders. In an effort to gain compliance with the speed limit we would direct officers to spend more time on Portage Avenue and to write citations.

AHF: While quotas aren’t as prevalent as we may have been led to believe, the TRPD does record “stats,” correct? Like the rate of crime, violent crime, the department’s clearance rate, etc.? 

How do these stats influence the way the department goes about its business?  As a detective, how do statistics determine your priorities and your approach to your position? 

SS: Correct, our officers enter the information into our Records Management System (RMS). We currently use a program called Alert. From there our clerical staff submits those number to the state to the Michigan Crime Report (MiCR). It’s also reported to the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) at the federal level. 

With this reported data, we can see crime trends, locations that need more attention or public education. We can also share the data with our partner agencies here in St. Joseph County. Just because a property crime happens in the city, these same suspects are probably doing it in the surrounding townships as well.  It also helps when we apply for grants, we can show the need for funding to deal with certain problems in these financially tight times.

Alek Haak-Frost is executive editor of Watershed Voice.

Sam Smallcombe is a Sergeant with 18 years of experience with the Three Rivers Police Department currently assigned as the department’s Detective. He is a Three Rivers native and currently resides in Three Rivers with his wife and children including a spoiled black lab, and a mini rex named Voldemort.