FROM THE NET WORKS NEWSLETTER, WINTER 2008, VOL. 24, NO. 1
Newly appointed Chief Thomas Weitzel of the Riverside, Illinois, Police Department knows that he can rely on IACP Net to face tough challenges — his relationship with IACP Net helped him achieve the chief position in Riverside (pop. 9,000), a unique residential village outside Chicago.
“When I was deputy chief, I was responsible for development of several new general orders and policies for the department,” said Chief Weitzel. “During my interview for police chief, I was able to show the village board that I had the knowledge to lead the police department during what was going to be a time of change for the agency. IACP Net really helped me prepare to take over as chief of police.”
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Since his appointment as chief, Weitzel faces a whole new set of challenges. Foremost in his mind is the creation of the Riverside Police Department’s first five-year strategic plan by October 2008. “A strategic plan is a living document that takes into account officer, civilian employee, and community needs,” noted Weitzel, who views input from all levels as essential to the process. To facilitate communication, he surveyed his 17 sworn officers and 26 civilian employees anonymously about the strengths and weaknesses of the department. Also, he will hold public meetings in March 2008 to determine what the community needs from the department. “We have limited resources, and we need to know where to apply those resources.”
IACP Net’s Quest-ResponseSM Service allowed Weitzel to gather input on the strategic planning process from agencies nationwide. “I had some positive responses — one department sent me a template for their strategic plan,” said Weitzel. “I received many examples and tailored all these responses to our strategic plan. IACP Net is an outstanding service.”
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For Chief Weitzel, professional development is an important ingredient for officer morale and retention. “We have highly qualified, well-educated employees, and at times we have a difficult time retaining them,” he explained. “It’s important to give officers opportunities for professional development besides training, so they’re not just sitting in a car on the beat for eight hours a day.”
Using IACP Net, Weitzel developed a systematic approach to nominating officers for continuing education. “Officers are very excited about this, and the investment is returned when officers come back — they can be mentored to take over the next level of employment,” emphasized Weitzel. “I put out a Quest for policies about sending officers to elite management programs and received lots of help. You’d be surprised at how many phone calls you get when you post a Quest on IACP Net.”
Since he was a lieutenant with the Riverside PD, Chief Weitzel has been using IACP Net’s Policies Database to take on community issues. For example, the Chief used IACP Net to construct a policy for cell phone use in squad cars. “We were getting complaints about officers using cell phones inappropriately in squad cars,” said Weitzel. “I easily found and adapted a policy for cell phone usage.”
Stretch Tight Budgets With IACP Net
Although budgeting is an issue for a small community like Riverside, the Village is convinced that IACP Net is an invaluable resource. “The Village has never attempted to cut IACP Net out of the budget — not that IACP Net is a great expense,” said Weitzel, who has had success applying for grant opportunities that he discovered on IACP Net, adding much-needed funding to the department budget.
“I find grants on IACP Net that I wouldn’t have known of otherwise — grants that are specific to our department size and budget,” said Weitzel.
Throughout his career, Chief Weitzel has most appreciated IACP Net’s support staff and ease of access. “IACP Net is a wealth of law enforcement information available on your desktop 24 hours a day. Besides that, IACP Net staff is very responsive. I don’t think any chief should be without it.”