Chief Scott McCollum (headshot) has been with the College Station, Texas Police Department since 1985 and was named chief of the department October, 2014. College Station PD has an authorized staff of 132 sworn positions and 62 civilian positions with an annual budget of more than 18 million dollars. Currently it is dealing with the rapid growth in the university community and assessing technology solutions to better help the growing population.
LET: Chief McCollum, looking back on 2014, what would you say are the top 4 policing concerns in your community?
SM: Addressing the growth of our community. Our community recently surpassed the 100,000 mark. Our city is home to Texas A&M University and its enrollment, along with nearby Blinn Junior College, continues to grow at a rapid pace. With that kind of growth comes the need for additional resources to effectively police our area—more personnel to respond to calls for service and those personnel need the appropriate equipment and training. We must also address our existing police structure and plan for the future as we continue to grow.
We’ve implemented a new CAD/RMS system—this project is very important and has a long-term potential impact. ……. It is a 20-year decision and we are striving to put ourselves in the best position for the future.
While we are blessed to live in a very safe community, we are not immune from crime problems that occur in other areas of the state and country….. Recognizing growing crime trends and developing strategies to compact them is critical to help us to accompany this mission.
…we always remember that we as an agency police with the consent and support of our community; without them we cannot succeed.
LET: What type of training are you looking to continue or seek out next year?
SM: Some of our immediate needs are training associated with our upcoming CAD/RMS systems for our agency. Our current system, while it has served us well, has been in place for over 20 years and places limits on our ability to serve the community to our capacity. By purchasing a new system our hope is to use it to continue our geographic model of policing and respond to criminal patters, and address quality of life issues within our community.
LET: Since Ferguson, Mo. There is increased pressure on US PDs to equip officers with body worn cameras. Where do you stand on the issue?
SM: Our agency recently purchased 16 body cameras as part of a plan to outfit all of our sworn officers with them. This was a project that was already in progress prior to events in Ferguson. Any technology or process that we can implement to facilitate transparency and better equip our officers to do their jobs and make better cases is beneficial to us as a department and community.
We already have systems in place that we use to manage and store digital evidence from our patrol car video systems, so we are familiar with the demands and requirements that come with newer technologies. The body camera storage policies and procedures will be very similar to our current model and take into account the lessons we have learned from the in-car systems.
LET: Also in 2014 there was an uptick in media reports of ‘police militarization’. Do you hear these concerns where you live?
SM: Our agency has acquired surplus equipment from military sources, but we have not obtained items like armored vehicles. We haven’t heard this concern voiced by our community. However, it is critical that an agency remember that a majority of their jurisdiction is not part of the criminal element. A balance and measured response to citizens needs is what is required.
LET: What was one of your greatest successes this past year?
SM: Personally, would be asked to serve as Chief of Police of such a fine LE agency. It is an honor to lead such an outstanding group of law enforcement professionals as the men and women of College Station Police Department.
Operationally, I’d have to say the steps we’ve taken to prepare our agency for the figure: We’ve continued to develop meaningful relationships with our community. We have collaboratively determined our department’s functional needs for a CAD/RMS system and evaluated potential vendors.
We have also taken significant steps towards the acquisition of new facilities to provide for our growing agency.
As the economy in this area continues to improve, we as an agency must continually analyze our business practices and remain efficient now and into the future.
Lt. Michael Johnston, (headshot) Bradley, Illinois Police Department
Bradley Police Department currently has 34 officers and is looking to hire two more in the near future. Johnston has been with the agency for just over 18 years and oversees the support services division. The community of Bradley has roughly 17,000 people and serves as a retail hub of the entire county. Bradley police officers patrol about 7 square miles of town.
LET: What are the top policing concerns in your community?
MJ: Some of our challenges within the department are retention and hiring good, qualified personnel. Every one of our officers are very highly qualified, but we had to look for that in our applicants, and sometimes we catch some and sometimes we don’t.
The biggest issue we face, but I think it’s one we face as a whole police body, is public image. Even though we have a great relationship with our community I see things out there that are so negative about the police, even in situations where the police were correct, or maybe there was an officer that lost his life. Some of the comments you see are just horrific. I think it’s definitely an image issue that we need to overcome.
LET: What kinds of training or tech are you look at for next year?
MJ: In our agency we train quite a bit on all different topics. For administration we attend a lot of management courses. Our patrol division are attending classes to better their patrol techniques on the road.
In the last couple of years we have really increased our use of tech even more and we don’t really have anyone that specifically is a sworn officer who handles that (tech) aspect of our department; it’s handled by IT and we have a 911 communications supervisor. Next year our biggest project will be an upgrade to an encrypted radio system. We’re looking to upgrade our radio system (to P25).
LET: Is your dept. concerned with cybercrime?
MJ: There’s always a fear our system could be breached, but I think that the safeguards they’ve put in place have been effective. But we have a lot of requirements—like with the *leads being the Illinois LE Data System and passwords and safeguards that they mandate, we follow. So I think we’re pretty good in that way.
LET: If you were given a blank check, what would you purchase for the dept.?
MJ: I’d update the entire computer system. But we’re recently looking at body cams. We’re very interested in to…but Ill law has not been clear on their use. From what I understand there’s something in the legislature right now that’s looking at a bill; whether that comes to fruition or not, I don’t know. But that’s one of the things we’d like to see. As a police administrator I’m very interested in these because I think it does give an accurate depiction of what takes place. I want them to be used in a way where our officers, because this is who we need to buy into this, are comfortable. ….I couldn’t tell you when we last had an excessive force complaint. But we’ve had other complaints where people come in and say an officer called him a name or was rude and disrespectful, things like that. Our video cameras in the car have refuted a lot of those claims and they’ve been an excellent tool to really tell what happened. I think body cams are no different; they’re just mounted somewhere else.
(As opposed to managing data) I think the hardest part with body cams is getting our people to buy into them, meaning our police officers, and not be concerned of the administration watching over their shoulders…I think the majority of officers are for it and they’re ok with it; I just think they have a lot of questions.
On the start of the shopping season:
MJ: Every year prior we hold an information meeting on current trends and checking credit card fraud; we answer questions and make sure stories know how to complete retail theft complains and fact sheets if they have somebody in custody for stealing.
LET: What was your biggest success this year?
MJ: I think the biggest thing is, as a department, we sponsored a national night out event. It was one of the most successful events we’ve had. We’re about building those relationships with the community and when we can bring 4,000 people to a park as one community being served by various police and fire agencies, to me that was a success. I think there are times when people are apprehensive of stopping officers. For us it’s a big anticrime message…and pro-police and pro-community.
On negative press:
MJ: My only concern is really this image issue we have as police. Unfortunately a lot of officers bring this on themselves and I tell my guys, “if you’re doing what’s right”…and it’s not always about who’s right, it’s about what’s right… there are always heat of the moment issues. I think it’s appalling when you hear of an officer who’s been shot and then you read a comment that he probably deserved it. And if that’s what people think, we need to turn that around. I say with confidence I’m sure we enjoy the majority of support. I do. I think though that a lot of these comments and issues are media driven. Because they’re there to sell the news. News of an officer doing something good should always outweigh news of the bad. But that goes with a lot of people; it’s the bad that sells.