Long before concerned citizens throughout the country were calling for changes to and the defunding of police departments, the Orem Police Department was already seeking answers on how to better itself.
Over the past year, an external audit was done by the consulting firm Citygate, which specializes in police, fire, civic and governmental consulting.
Police Chief Josh Adams, who came on board in November, says he is the beneficiary of the outside audit. The audit was to give recommendations of best practices specifically for Orem.
“The department had implemented some of the changes by the time I got here,” Adams said. “We’ve learned a lot about ourselves. We’re surprised it didn’t call for more changes.”
Adams said the audit is a blueprint for how the department should move forward. Among some of the recommendations are ways to restructure without needing more employees or affecting the taxpayer.
“We don’t necessarily need more employees, but jobs may be reclassified,” Adams said. “It will give us a better level of service in the city.”
Over the past year, the police department has hired 20 officers. Some are lateral hires from departments in and outside of the state, a few are returning officers, some are new to policing.
The department also has moved officers up the ladder in ranking. There is one new captain, one new lieutenant, and two new sergeants.
About 10% of the department is bilingual. Besides a number of officers that speak Spanish, there are other languages including one American Sign Language officer, one officer that speaks Samoan, one that speaks Hindi and one that speaks Dutch.
Already in play and also recommended by the audit is that all officers department wide have crises training.
“There are people on round the clock that do initial intervention,” Adams said. “We have two officers on the Mental Health Unit.”
Those officers also work with crisis and mental health counselors on incidents and make revisits to homes to make sure the resident is OK.
“Officers have social workers with them to keep people on track and in a good place,” Adams said. “We are looking for a solution not a Band-Aid.”
Lt. Nick Thomas, public information officer for the department, said that every two years, officers receive updated mental health and crisis training.
Adams added that residents can help police by looking after each other, reacquaint themselves with neighbors, and making sure neighbors are OK.
“Do they have a positive human contact?” Adams said. “This past year has been horrible for that.”
Because the Orem department has a young staff, between three to seven years of service on the average, Adams is moving more of the long-term staff into supervisory positions to help train.
“The biggest asset I’ve had is the people that are already here (on the department),” Adams said. “I’ve got an amazing support staff.”
The report was written for the city government, the city manager’s office and city council. The audit report will be presented at the March 23 city council meeting.