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PIONEER VIEWPOINTS: A plan of action for police

On Wednesday, Bemidji Chief of Police Mike Mastin released the department’s strategic plan for the next three years.

The 16-page document is a succinct look at how the department is organized and staffed, it’s budget and a look at recent crime rate trends. While more detailed crime statistics for 2016 will be released later this year, it is interesting to note that the Bemidji Police Department responded to 27,000 calls for service last year. That includes criminal and noncriminal incidents. And did you know that the Bemidji Police Department handles crime numbers comparable to other Minnesota cities with similar jurisdiction sizes but with much larger population, such as Maple Grove and Apple Valley.

But the core of the strategic plan, which Mastin and his fellow officers worked on for six months, are goals they want to achieve in the next three years.

The goals are:

  • Build strong relationships with all members of the community to increase transparency, understanding and trust.

  • Establish well-trained and professional police officers who focus on protecting the dignity and human rights of all people.

  • Focus on crime reduction efforts and improve quality of life issues by utilizing problem oriented policing strategies.

  • Enhance emergency response capabilities to all hazards occurring in the City of Bemidji.

“A lot of these goals are things we have always done,” Mastin told Pioneer reporter Grace Pastoor. “Maybe we can put a spotlight on them and just do a little bit more.”

In the plan, Mastin and his department outline specific steps they will take to achieve each goal. That’s the key when setting goals -- what steps will you take to realize success? And are the outcomes of the steps measurable? What defines success of each goal? All the steps and outcomes put forth in the plan are too long to list here, but examples of some steps are police officers wearing body cameras to increase transparency and trust with the public, as well as staff reviewing the use-of-force policies to make sure they focus on de-escalating incidents. Some outcomes listed include reduction of thefts and an increase in citations and arrests for distracted or impaired driving. Those are measurable.

Mastin and his department already have undertaken initiatives in recent years to become more visible to the community, such as increasing their visits to schools, the TRIAD program, where the BPD and the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office visits with senior citizens to discuss safety and crime prevention. There’s also the new Coffee with a Cop program, where the department hopes to meet more community members in a casual setting. The most recent was held on Friday at Lake Bemidji Bed and Breakfast.

Mastin said he wants public input on the plan, as well.

“I think we’ve taken steps to become more open to the public, but we also want to take steps now within this plan to further show the public these are steps we continue to take to be more approachable,” he told the Pioneer. “To get comments from maybe those people that don’t feel they can come up and talk to law enforcement openly.”

The BPD’s new strategic plan is a strong plan, and we urge residents to give it a read. You can find it on the police department’s page on the city of Bemidji’s website -- http://www.ci.bemidji.mn.us/.

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