Exploring the different models for public safety

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Developing a model for public safety in a city the size of Indianapolis requires a large amount of effort to build and fund programs that will work. A plethora of contemporary models or systems that are currently being used include hybrid models, centralized systems, emergency preparedness plans, COMPSTAT, the National Response Framework, as well as, the Comprehensive Risk Management Framework. Together with some of the more traditional theories used in "Broken Windows Theory" and the "Uses of Sidewalks Safety" they can adequately respond to public safety demands. Models or systems that have been tried but do not work, can result for various reasons including lack of funding, low stakeholder buy-in, and an inability to learn from mistakes. This has allowed, "a shifting from a passive posture to a focus on outcomes and on controlling behavior rather than just measuring response, and has allowed the police to create a huge and positive impact," (Bratton & Malinowski, 2008, p. 261). In order to implement a successful model however, it is important to first create public value, determine operational capacity, and achieve legitimacy and support. Crucial to the success of the plan would be finding what is needed for the locality in order for a streamlined course of action to be developed. Knowing what the citizenry require to be satisfied with their individual public safety would also allow for better measurement of outcomes and results. Well-informed external stakeholders would help to authorize organizational capacity that is strategic in nature and, importantly, would not run into shortages in staffing or money on an annual basis.

An educated populace will not get that way without legitimacy and support from certain key players in numerous sectors. As director of public safety, garnering legitimacy and support from key citizens, members of the media, legislators, community partners, numerous places of worship (e.g. churches, synagogues, mosques, etc.), Nongovernmental Organizations, nonprofits, and private sector businesses would be extremely important. Many stakeholders that would need to be involved from the media could include such outlets as radio stations, television networks, newspapers, and public or private websites. From legislators it would be important to garner bipartisan support so that they will vote in favor of laws that will increase public value for the agency. Third party support from the many other organizations and partners would help spread out funding streams and decrease centralization.

Hybrid Models

Throughout our history certain public safety models have come about, with some working well and some not working, while others are combinations of these models. One such model is a hybrid model used by certain cities across the United States. Cities that have employed the hybrid models of public safety include Sunnyvale, California and Kalamazoo, Michigan. Both of these cities share common characteristics in that they are both municipalities that have had economic, as well as, social concerns and thought outside of the box to solve them. Sunnyvale and Kalamazoo are prime examples of such hybrid models. Both cities decided to combine their police and fire services to develop a hybrid department consisting of "public safety officers" that were skilled in both areas. "The combining of police and fire services was expected to be more flexible and more responsive to community safety needs, and economize operational cost," (Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety). Kalamazoo's Department of Public Safety stated that it has, "incorporated modern technology and comprehensive training techniques" (United States of America Congressional Record, 2003, p. 7608) so that the needs of its stakeholders both internally and externally can be met. These communities used a non-traditional technique that helped them to solve the expectations of their citizens in the current public safety environment.

Kalamazoo and Sunnyvale ranked highly in public safety polls. Much like other regulations in the United States public sector, the regulations are shifted, swayed, or halted, depending on the political and economic climate predominantly. This means that at certain points the demand for more officers and public safety officials will be increased while at other times, citizens will demand lower taxes, resulting in the hiring of fewer officers. It could eventually become fiscally inefficient to have a combined system and these city's public safety departments could once again be separated. Hybrid models provide copious amounts of creativity but they can also pose challenges in future operations management.

Centralized Systems

Another type of model or system to bring in communication methods, so that messages are received in a timely manner is the use of a centralized system. In order for a centralized communication system to work, it is necessary for the people to know about the system that is in place. Stakeholders need to be informed about how to get to specific locations if a disaster were to occur. "These problems can be resolved by using automated emergency communications that alert groups of people with messages that utilize a variety of contact paths such as phone lines, email, mobile phones, pagers, etc.," (Stuver, 2005). Using this system, allows for stakeholders in the various areas of a city, to be informed quickly through numerous communication sources. This would include getting, "timely information to police, firefighters, medical teams and hospitals that are fundamental to emergency preparation [procedures]," (Stuver, 2005). Relaying such important information in an emergency not only requires that the information can get across to numerous stakeholders but also that they can understand the message. It is becoming more and more common to see translators of various languages as full-time staff, or as temporary employees through a translator service, in the smallest to the largest communities. Messages need to be recorded and reformatted multiple ways so that multiple parties can access the information, regardless of separated physical locations," (Stuver, 2005). Another crucial step to take is to, "use redundant electrical power sources, communications carriers and Internet service providers to minimize the chance that the system will be inoperative," (Stuver, 2005) for an extended length of time. In order for the communication system to be strong, a strategic plan outlining where people need to be is crucial to its success.

General Preparedness

Arnold Howitt and Howard Leonard have written at length about the necessity for public sector safety agencies to be prepared for natural, manmade, or terrorist disasters. Their combined expertise in the area of public safety has helped them to write several articles about implementing a relevant response to concerns of the public and policymakers. Furthermore, many stakeholders were critical of the way the federal government has handled disasters, especially after such a travesty as Hurricane Katrina negatively affected New Orleans residents. For example, "if a major disaster strikes, it is virtually inevitable that affected jurisdictions will have to import and effectively absorb support from surrounding areas or in very severe circumstances from around the nation," (Howitt & Leonard, 2006, p. 2). Development of a system that could handle such disasters was theoretically to have happened after the events of September 11th. However, "making the National Incident Management System truly operational at the local and state levels, as well as clarifying and effectively integrating it with the National Response Plan at the federal level [was] a critical step," (Howitt & Leonard, 2006, p. 4) towards achieving this goal. Their work introduced that an immediate action plan had to be in place when a crisis situation occurred in order for an effective response to be enacted.

The public safety triangle is pushed to its limits in high impact and disaster situations. As would be expected, "compared with routine emergencies, crises require quite different capabilities. In crises, responders must first quickly diagnose any elements of novelty that may invalidate their expectations and prior plans. Then, they need to improvise response measures adequate to cope with the unanticipated dimensions of the emergency," (Howitt & Leonard, 2006, p. 2). Several reasons for the public safety divisions in a city, of any size, to have this type of adaptable plan are because of the new demands placed upon a city in an emergency. "Decision-makers must be able to unilaterally project the implications of the information they have gathered, so they can anticipate the likely consequences of a fluid situation," (Howitt & Leonard, 2006, p. 3). The public safety divisions need to make sure that they have the capability to increase manpower, if necessary, in such a situation. The first responders to the scene of a disaster should also be working within a strict framework that does allow some space for dealing with unforeseen circumstances.

If a natural disaster hit Indianapolis, that had the scope and damage of Hurricane Katrina, how would local, state, and the federal government respond? This is extremely important to ponder because, "as Katrina demonstrated, crises demand levels of coordination of governmental and non-governmental resources, including many that are not part of the normal configuration of emergency agencies. Coordination, moreover, has both a technical and political component which necessitates construction of an infrastructure of coordination along both dimensions," (Howitt & Leonard, 2006, p. 4). Not only did the system have to be proactive to deal with new threats but it also had to be compatible with working systems already in place. "Congress had also recognized the need for such preparation, as reflected in the 2002 statutory requirement for a National Incident Management System (NIMS) that is compatible with Standardized Emergency Management System (SEMS)," (Howitt & Leonard, 2006, p. 3). In sharp contrast to the House enacting such objectives many local emergency operations were still ill-prepared and ill-equipped to deal with a national emergency, regardless of what laws were passed.

In Indianapolis, tornados are the natural threat that occurs annually. Skyscrapers, buildings, utility and transportation infrastructure, as well as, many of the one-story structures scattered throughout town need to be able to be resistant to the stress of these powerful winds. Cost-benefit analysis should also be performed to see if having disaster insurance on a building would be cheaper in the prevailing climate if specific high-cost changes were made to the infrastructure of the building. "A prospective disaster event defines three different time periods in which [government] can intervene against its associated future probabilistic losses: actions can be taken before the event occurs, during or in the immediate aftermath of the event, or once the event itself is over and the community is working to recover from it," (Howitt & Leonard, 2010, p. 5). These threats will be higher or lower depending on the geographical location of the locality.

Statistics and Frameworks

It is important to base decisions on how much information the agency has at a given time which will allow the most accurate decisions to be made. Well-known police chief of Boston, New York, and Los Angeles made a strong point about how to affect law-breaking in an area. He stated, "that the quickest way to impact crime is with a well-led, managed and appropriately resourced police force that embraces risk taking and not risk adversity and a policing structure that includes accountability-focused COMPSTAT management principles, broken windows quality-of-life initiatives and problem-oriented community policing," (Bratton & Malinowski, 2008, p. 261). Police have the influence to affect the efficiency of a city, town, or village better than any other public agency would be able to do. Using this method the easiest way to drive down crime is enforcement of even the smallest citations and offenses. Eventually, as the community receives and understands the new reality, crimes will decrease and neighborhood safety and confidence in the department will rise.

The National Response Framework was developed so that numerous organizations and people would be interconnected. Populations of various sizes are currently at a state of being more segmented in terms of communication, than having interconnected and centralized tendencies. It is not only important for government entities to be apprised of a situation but also the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and nonprofits. "This includes developing plans, conducting assessments and exercises, providing and directing resources and capabilities, and gathering lessons learned. These activities require that involved organizations understand their roles and responsibilities, and how they fit within and are supported by the Framework," (National Response Framework, 2008, p. 4). Conditional on the environments of a hazard, will help decision-makers decide whether parts, or the entire Framework are to be used. "Selective implementation allows for a scaled response, delivery of the resources needed, and an appropriate level of coordination," (National Response Framework, 2008, p. 7). Within this Framework many other structures, charts, and diagrams could be used to base decision or policy-making at the local level.

Decentralized Activities

The Comprehensive Risk Management Framework (CRMF) developed by Howitt and Leonard is one these structural frameworks that can be used. It illustrates the, "many possible forms of action that societies can take to manage social risks," (Howitt & Leonard, 2009, p. 47).

In the CMRF many public safety scenarios can be plugged in to find out the way to, "reduce the overall cost of social hazards," (Howitt & Leonard, 2009, p. 47). Five factors that are important to an effective effort according to authors Leonard and Howitt include, "it being highly self-reliant, local leaders emerging that have had some prior experience in working on neighborhood issues, a high ability for communities to mobilize, highly adaptive local leaders and organizations, and well-established working relationships with outside communities," (Howitt & Leonard, 2009, p. 51). In essence the framework helps a community to find the value and the risks involved with taking one action over another. Accordingly it, "…provides a way of thinking about the level and composition of investments and activities across these different points of intervention so that [the policymaker] can consider whether the investments [made] constitute the best possible portfolio of actions that society can take in the face of the risks it confronts," (Howitt & Leonard, 2009, p. 47). The actions of the CMRF allow a local government to create a high level of public value because the best choices are developed and fostered. It is the ability of local governments to stay at the fulcrum of the needs of the public, that many citizens are less overwhelmed by smaller government. As they are closer to the situations and problems that their citizens face, they can theoretically provide services that have a higher public value than would a more centralized method of governing.

Preparedness for a disaster would be more of a deficit on a budget and thus would not be a high-profit activity in a three tier organization. However it provides a type of public value that cannot always be quantified until a disaster actually occurs. "To be ready to confront whatever routine and extreme events lay before us, our societies must make judgments about what structures and approaches will best serve our needs and then build and prepare those structures in advance," (Leonard, Baker, & Snider, 2010, p. 11). Our national security when it comes to terrorism provides a different type of threat that requires more centralization than decentralization found in the natural disaster area of public safety and wellbeing. "This creates the "ex-ante" reality of how we will be organized in our response to the next event. Extreme events always involve significant disruption and turmoil, and it often seems, after the fact, that a more centralized response might have been able to produce a better outcome," (Leonard, Baker, & Snider, 2010, p. 11). Being proactive produces an environment in which initiative and strategy can go hand-in-hand with operations management of the public safety division. "We have a dangerous tendency to imagine the upside of more central command and control (greater precision in execution, for example) and to forget the likely downside (the inability of a centralized command staff to stay ahead of the overwhelming burden of detail flowing from myriad distributed events, and the inevitable delays and errors in providing direction that would result)," (Leonard, Baker, & Snider, 2010, p. 11). A far-reaching error made at the national level could drive citizen confidence in government to all-time lows, such as what occurred in the Katrina disaster. Decentralized techniques have been applied to many public safety agencies in order to prevent such an event from occurring, thus increasing public legitimacy and support.

Government Abilities Criticism

Clark Kent Ervin, a former homeland security department inspector general went on record with numerous media outlets stating, "that airport security isn't tight enough and that little has been done to safeguard other forms of mass transit," (Hall, 2004). Many cities had reserved a large amount of resources for terrorist attacks and yet, that the former inspector general of the department of homeland security was stating this meant that the United States was still vulnerable to such types of criminal activity even after being so affected on 9/11. He stated that, "ports remain vulnerable to terrorists trying to smuggle weapons into the country," (Hall, 2004). Subsequently he confirmed that, "…Homeland Security officials have wasted millions of dollars because of "chaotic and disorganized" accounting practices, lavish spending on social occasions and employee bonuses and a failure to require competitive bidding for some projects," (Hall, 2004). Ervin's claims left an alarming message with Homeland Security, at a national level, because of many of his zero tolerance policies. He was even brave enough and confident enough in his message to comment to the former president of the United States, George W. Bush. To paraphrase he stated that the Department of Homeland Security was disorganized and bureaucratic, as well as. going on to state that the commander-in-chief should look to private industry for some tips on how to run the organization (Hall, 2004). These comments came at a time when the President was running for reelection and were meant to be unfavorable to the president's reputation.

Leonard and Howitt speak in length about the aftermath that Hurricane Katrina had on rescue efforts and the amount of policies made to prevent such a government response disaster to occur again. An illustration used was about how, "technology might not exist to prevent an earthquake in California but that there is technology available that can help to make buildings more resistant to such a strain," (Howitt & Leonard, 2010, p. 5). In this scenario, it is important for cities that are at risk for certain natural disasters to fund programs that help to diminish the impacts from such an event. It also provides the example that although the tools and knowledge involved in minimizing casualties in a disaster to zero does not exist currently, it is still necessary to work within a realistic frame-of-reference for the resources available.

Modeled Response

Changing the way that people react in their own communities and neighborhoods is the first step of the process. "The sidewalk must have users on it fairly continuously, both to add to the number of effective eyes on the street and to induce the people in buildings along the street to watch the streets in sufficient numbers," (Jacobs, 1961, p. 35). Taking ownership of public safety issues would permit cost savings and better intelligence. "It does not take many incidents of violence on a city street, or in a city district, to make people fear the streets. And as they fear them, they use them less, which makes the street still more unsafe," (Jacobs, 1961, p. 30). Hence, it is crucial that paying attention to the smaller crimes (introduced in Broken Windows Theory) will help with overall progress. "Public spaces in a democracy should be adequate, open, usable, and accessible to all. Public spaces are, in a sense, the symbols of a democratic and open city," (Marcuse, 2006, p. 922). Incidentally, these help to form a healthy, progressive, and judicious society. "At the heart of the effectiveness of manipulated responses is a basic shift in perspective, a transformation of the threat of terrorism from a threat to public safety to a threat to existential security. Thus, the threat of terrorism is presented as an issue of security rather than of safety, and used politically not only in the narrow sense of partisan politics, but to justify major infringements on not only the use of public space, but more broadly the rights to the city," (Marcuse, 2006, p. 924). The value of the services will then be completely reliant on whether people want more rights but less security or vice versa.


The Broken Windows Theory of public safety can be applied to managing a police division that is having a crime wave. "A particular rule that seems to make sense in the individual case makes no sense when it is made a universal rule and applied to all cases. It makes no sense because it fails to take into account the connection between one broken window left untended and a thousand broken windows," (Wilson & Kelling, 1982, p. 7). It is essential for the police to use this theory because they prevent communities from becoming completely dilapidated. Similar to the "ex-ante" approach stated by Leonard, Baker, & Snider, the Kelling Theory tries to prevent threats rather than react to them. "As physicians now recognize the importance of fostering health rather than simply treating illness, so the police and the rest of us ought to recognize the importance of maintaining, intact, communities without broken windows," (Wilson & Kelling, 1982, p. 10). Broken windows represent the downturn of a community and if they can be prevented from occurring then an entire locality can be rescued.

Another way to form a large amount of legitimacy and support from stakeholders is to first develop strategies that apply successful integration of transparent delivery systems. These seek to inform the public about the current threat level of possible terrorist activities. "On March 12th 2002, Governor Tom Ridge, then-secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security introduced the Homeland Security Advisory System (HSAS). The HSAS is a means of disseminating information regarding the risk of terrorist acts to federal, state and local authorities and to people in the United States," (Pennings & Grossman, 2008, p. 441). Such a system promotes easy to disseminate categories which act as a guide for how much precaution an individual citizen should take at the moment, so that they can feel as if they are more a part of the process. "This system enables decision makers to form more adequate risk perceptions, thereby decreasing the variations in risk perception," (Pennings & Grossman, 2008, p. 441). Consequently, it is helpful to continue to educate the public of growing concerns in smaller communities, as well as, nationally and globally.

It could seem like overkill, at times, for the public safety sector to continue to remind people of its value, but it could save lives. In the long run and after all, the whole purpose in the public safety arena is to keep people clear from danger. Getting into the public psyche helps create public value as well because people will feel as if they have increased services. "A framework that systematically analyzes how individuals respond to crises, by examining the factors that drive risk behavior and by relating individual behavior to aggregate behavior, may be helpful when developing policies," (Pennings & Grossman, 2008, p. 445). Increasing public value will eventually get the stakeholders to benefit from legitimacy and support. "It is the behavioral outcome space that needs to be managed during a crisis or disaster, which is done through appropriate communication, management, and shaping of risk attitudes and risk perceptions," (Pennings & Grossman, 2008, p. 446). Keeping change at the top of the public safety strategic thought process would help because there are always new issues and players. A public safety division that can successfully combine the traditional with the cotemporary can be useful in establishing a model that is easy to use, as well as, fully encompassing of the stakeholders involved.