The San Jose Police Department's new "Department Direction" makes use of a mobile app, called CityConnnect. aimed at engaging the community while freeing up valuable resources.
Photo credit: PublicEngines/San Jose Police Department
With an understaffed department, no permanent chief and low morale among rank-and-file officers, the San Jose Police Department has faced some tough times -- but it's not sitting idle.
In late April, the department unveiled a new "Department Direction" that makes use of a new mobile app, called CityConnnect, aimed at engaging the community while freeing up valuable resources.
Police Spokesman Sgt. Jason Dwyer spoke to Officer.com about the department's mission statement, known as RCITI, and how CityConnect has helped it better inform the city's residents.
"The last couple of years have been very difficult for the city of San Jose. Not only for the officers here, but for members of the community that have seen a service reduction; a noticeable service reduction," he said. "We've seen the crime levels go up here. Not only property crime, but violent crime."
RCITI -- pronounced "Our City" -- was created following various meetings with the department's police officers, upper command staff and the community. The core components of RCITI are: Respect, Empathy and Professionalism; Crime Deduction; Investing in Employees, Transparency and Accountability; and Innovation for the Future.
"We were trying to find out what we should put in the answer to the question the community is ultimately asking," Dwyer said. "People wanted to know what our police department looks like and what it is doing right now to address some of these issues."
Connecting With the Community
Increased response times and a rise in crime led to tensions between the community and the police department, something officials knew needed to be addressed.
One of the main focuses of the department's new mission has been customer service; something it believes is enhanced by the use of CityConnect.
The cell phone application is available for both Apple and Android devices and allows residents to better communicate with police.
The app includes links to the department's website, blogs, Twitter and Facebook pages and crime mapping. It also allows residents to file a report or submit a tip directly to police.
"There're a lot of different services that somebody can access right from their phone," Dwyer said. "That's what's unique about an app like CityConnect as opposed to just a website where somebody might have to be sitting at a computer or may be a strain for a device not meant to be surfing the web all the time."
In terms of RCITI and the use of the application, Dwyer says that they work hand-in-hand.
"CityConnect is really involved in several of the core priorities that we have," he said. "When you talk about innovation, things like CityConnect and a few of the other web-based things that we now offer on our website, they're new to the community, but it's just another avenue they can use to get in touch with the police department."
San Jose was one of the first police departments to use the app, and so far, officials say it's received a good response from both community members and officers alike.
William Kilmer, the CEO of PublicEngines -- the company that created the app -- said that the San Jose Police Department has been instrumental in helping the company refine the application as one of the first Beta testers.
"To have this innovative police department elect to base their public engagement strategy around CityConnect is very rewarding," Kilmer said in a statement sent to Officer.com. "It is also indicative of the realities public safety agencies face today: doing much more with far less. Products like CityConnect help them accomplish that feat."
San Jose police officials know the department has a long way to go, but they are focused on continuing to rebuild its reputation and trust with the community and its officers.
"We've got a lot of issues we're still working through as far as retention and things like that go, but with an app like CityConnect, it offers a lot of tools to the end user -- who is a member of the community," he Dwyer said. "With the staffing levels and some of the constraints that we have, it's nice to know that we're opening up more and more doors for members of the community to do things on their own."
He said that residents can now log onto their phones and make a report or they can log on to the website and get some of the information they used to ask an officer when they would see one out in the field.
"It's not that we're trying to lower the amount of services we're able to provide, it's just a smarter way to provide those services and educate the public on how they themselves can do a lot of the things you used to call a police officer out there to do."