The Bemidji Police Department intends to spend the next three years building a stronger relationship with the community, training its officers and working to reduce crime in the city.
Chief of Police Mike Mastin released the department’s newest strategic plan, summarizing its objectives, as well as making budget and crime statistics public.
The plan’s four goals — the result of six months of work by Mastin and the police department — are:
- Build strong relationships with all members of our community increase transparency, understanding and trust.
- Establish well-trained and professional police officers who focus on protecting the dignity and human rights of all people.
- Focus on crime reduction efforts and improve quality of life issues by utilizing problem oriented policing strategies.
- Enhance emergency response capabilities to all hazards occurring in the City of Bemidji.
“A lot of these goals are things we have always done,” Mastin said in an interview. “Maybe we can put a spotlight on them and just do a little bit more.”
Mastin said the department used the six pillars included in a May 2015 report by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing to create its four goals. The pillars focus largely on building trust of police within communities.
The plan lists strategies officers intend to use to accomplish each goal. According to the document, the department will recruit minorities to participate in its reserve officer program, encourage officers to attend multicultural events and use body cameras.
Mastin said he hopes to see more input from the public, including from people who usually don’t feel comfortable speaking with police.
“I think we’ve taken steps to become more open to the public, but we also want to take steps now within this plan to further show the public these are steps we continue to take to be more approachable,” he said.
“To get comments from maybe those people that don’t feel they can come up and talk to law enforcement openly.”
The main difference from Mastin’s initial strategic plan, released in 2011, is a shift in focus from building a better police department. The chief anticipated a large amount of turnover in 2011, something that is less likely to happen in coming years.
The previous plan was in effect through 2014. Mastin held off on creating a new one because he wanted to see the direction City Manager Nate Mathews, who took over the job in 2015, would take Bemidji.
The new plan also addresses Bemidji’s relatively high crime rate. Throughout 2015, officers responded to more than 3,000 reportable crimes and saw the same number of crimes as much larger cities such as Maple Grove and Apple Valley, according to statistics from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
“Part of that crime rate stems from a disproportionately high theft rate,” Mastin said. “We hope to focus more on identifying the problem and figuring out a solutions, a viable solution. Not just going to the same thing all the time.”
Officers have already discussed possible solutions with local businesses, Mastin said.
And, because of incidents across the country, the department will spend the next three years focusing on de-escalation and use of force.
“I also want to show we are taking initiative before something were to happen, and to prevent something from happening,” Mastin said. “Use of force has gotten a tremendous amount of attention and I want to make sure our department, our officers, are trained.”
27,000 in 2016
In 2016, the Bemidji Police Department responded to 27,000 calls for service. Calls for service include criminal and non-criminal incidents.
As of January 2017, the Bemidji Police Department employs 33 sworn officers, two full-time civilian administrative support staff and three part-time civilian parking enforcement officers.
Pillars of Policing
The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing released a May 2015 report including six recommendations, or pillars, for law enforcement agencies across the country:
- Building Trust and Legitimacy
- Policy and Oversight
- Technology and Social Media
- Community Policing and Crime Reduction
- Training and Education
This article originally appeared in The Bemidji Pioneer.