Here is the latest Discover Janesville column published in Janesville Messenger on Sunday, August 25, 2013.
Janesville Police Chief David Moore looks for more opportunities for transparency like few other people in the public eye I ever met.
When we recently sat down for a conversation about how Janesville police officers do their job, the chief’s deep understanding of the role that the police department plays in the community and his commitment to making Janesville safer while maintaining respect for the rights of residents, was clearly on display and is deeply admirable.
He noted the authority and the responsibility that police officers have to the community. Parallel with that, Moore understands that citizens can’t choose their law enforcement agency. In law enforcement, we get only only choice, and the Janesville Police Department does not take this issue lightly.
Police work also is different from any other job, because it has a good and positive mission of protecting this community while frequently using methods that are negative in nature – issuing citations, stopping people, making arrests and sometimes even using deadly force.
With that comes additional responsibility and accountability, which is enforced by Moore through proper policy procedure, leadership, training and supervision.
As a part of that, when a citizen sees a police officer doing something that they are concerned about, they are encouraged to call police at (608) 755-3055 and contact a shift supervisor, lieutenant, deputy chiefs or Moore directly.
“On occasion,” Moore said, “our officers make mistakes. We will take corrective actions to see that these don’t occur again. If it’s repeated, and if it’s a problem officer, we’re not shy about using discipline to make sure that it doesn’t occur again.”
Moore said that while “these things occur,” he really needs thte public’s help, and people need to feel comfortable about contacting police about their concerns.
One area that residents have expressed concerns is about the rules and regulations that govern how police officers obey traffic laws.
In general, Moore said, if an officer exceeds the speed limit, they need to have audible and visual signs.
There are times when an officer may not use a siren or flashing lights, if, for example, there is a burglary in progress or an assault of a serious nature, because they don’t want to let a criminal know that they are about to arrive at the scene.
But in all other instances, they are required to follow traffic laws.
Bringing more clarity and transparency to law enforcement is the reason behind adding wearable cameras. The video shows the scene from the officer’s perspective and has been useful in addressing citizens’ concerns while protecting officers.
“It really takes away the officer’s version and the citizen’s version of what happened, because we can just bring it up and we see what really happened,” Moore said.
According to Moore, some officers were reluctant to wear the cameras t first, but once they saw the value of collecting evidence, and especially when citizen complaints come in, officers who didn’t have cameras started to ask for them.
So, how can residents be sure that they will not suffer any retribution for reporting a police officer?
Moore said that he is not aware that that ever happened, and added, “That issue would rest on my promise to this community that this will not happen.”
Per department policy, there are times when corrective action needs to be taken, other times it does not, Moore said. But there always is an investigation on a complaint, and the citizen is told about the outcome of the investigation.
Next month: Part 2 of my conversation with janesville Police Chief David Moore, including his thoughts on the concealed carry law, his greatest challenge since becoming Janesville’s chief of police and the reasons behind the Do Not Serve list distributed to Janesville bars.