Hit and miss

News Hits got its mitts on an interesting memo last week, one in which a high-ranking member of the Detroit Police Department admitted that things weren't going well, and that the "department's ability to maintain its core functions in an efficient and effective manner has been greatly challenged ..."

Among the areas being impacted, according to the Sept. 28 memo sent to northwestern district supervisors by Deputy Chief Ronald Haddad, were response times, investigations and crime solving, and community police visibility.

Aside from keeping speeders in check and helping the valets over at Greektown Casino, we can't think of much more the DPD has to do. According to the memo, blame lay in the "implementation of new technology" and continued pressure to comply with requirements mandated by the U.S. Department of Justice. Under the terms of two consent decrees that date back to 2003, the DOJ is monitoring the Detroit Police Department to guard against improper use of force and witness detentions, and to ensure prisoners are properly treated once locked up.

David Malhalab, a retired DPD sergeant and one of the force's most persistent critics, forwarded the memo to us and other media in town. Normally, News Hits would get scooped on something like this. The daily newspaper and teevee folk have a big advantage over us, hampered as we are by the fact that this rag only comes out once a week. But fortunately, the other reporters in town apparently had their notebooks full with stories related to a matter much more newsworthy than whether our police department is getting bogged down when called upon to respond to, say, a robbery or rape that's under way. And what is it that's been demanding the attention of the area's newshounds? Baseball. The Tigers, you may have noticed, were recently playing in something called the World Series, an event, as best we can tell, of such earthshaking significance that little else matters.

But you don't have to take our word for it.

One reporter who received the same e-mailed memo we did was kind enough to respond to Malhalab with this message: "David. You realize the World Series is going on now, right? I doubt these e-mails will be followed up on until that media blitz is over. Just a thought. Stuff's going to get lost in the shuffle."

The Hits is feeling awfully remiss for falling down on the job by not getting to the bottom of that Kenny Rogers pine tar incident, not to mention completely blowing our chance to write an exposé about the favorite breakfast cereals enjoyed by our almost-heroic Tigers.

But, with the report out this week that Detroit has once again been ranked the second most dangerous city in America (with, ironically, St. Louis being both No. 1 in baseball and crime), we thought we'd follow the advice of that old major leaguer "Wee Willie" Keeler and keep trying to "hit 'em where they ain't." In other words, if the News and Freep want to become Sports Illustrated, (and, giving credit where it's due, they're doing a hell of a job of it) this column will have to assume the terrible burden of providing metro area readers with something in short supply: actual news.

Though we could be wrong about this being news. According to the memo, the so-called CRISNET technology — implemented four years ago as a way for cops on the street to move from paper to computer when submitting preliminary crime reports — is part of the reason the time it takes to process an arrest has increased from 50 minutes to as long as two hours.

But PD spokesman James Tate says that, if there's any news here at all, the memo should be seen in a positive light, with Haddad taking action and recommending corrective procedures to speed things up so that cops can get back out on the street more quickly. You identify the problems, then make the "tweaks" necessary to correct them, explains Tate.

But four years seems like a kinda long time to be working out kinks in a system. And Malhalab, who stays in close contact with people still on the force, contends that the department-wide restructuring implemented more than a year ago — with the city's 13 precincts being reduced to six police "districts" as a cost-saving measure — is also to blame. A legitimate criticism? "That depends on who you ask," says Tate. "With things like this, there's always two sides."

What's certain, says Tate, is that the restructuring plan is a "work in progress," but the key is that when "blips" arise, action is taken to address them and get things running smoothly.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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