Community Policing Performance Audit

To find the final report and more information on this work, please see this news article from March 11, 2021.

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In July 2020, the City of Salem commissioned a performance audit of the Salem Police Department's policies and tactics, effectiveness in engaging all Salem residents, capacity for community policing, and officer accountability. 

On March 15, 2021, the City Council will consider the performance audit findings and recommendations in a Joint Work Session with the group who guided the work since October, the Community Engagement Audit Steering Committee.  Find the draft audit here.

What were the audit's key findings and recommendations?

Finding: Salem Police Department engages in some promising activities but does not have a robust, collaborative strategy for addressing issues for unsheltered individuals and those experiencing behavioral health crises.

Recommendation: Develop a formal, written community-oriented policing strategic plan.

  • All personnel, no matter the assignment, should reflect the values and principles of community policing and engagement and support the plan.
  • Ensure response to calls for service involving unsheltered individuals and those experiencing behavioral threat crises from Police personnel includes local social service providers.
  • Provide data to community partners engaged in collaborative efforts with Salem Police Department to address the goals and objectives of the plan. 

Finding: Salem Police Department does not have a robust data collection and analysis system.

Recommendation: Report crime and calls-for-service data in real-time, strengthen crime analysis capabilities, and assign officers to crime hotspots.

  • Provide data through the Department's website and other social media platforms.
  • Collect and analyze data to show whether there are enforcement disparities in Salem's neighborhoods.

Finding: Salem Police Department needs to increase outreach to members of the BIPOC community and engage them in formal, collaborative ways to address policing issues

Recommendation: Engage the BIPOC community to address issues that drive crime, improve relationships with their communities, and help in recruiting efforts.

  • Invite members of Salem BIPOC communities to help present in training sessions that address cultural diversity, bias-free policing, de-escalation and similar topics
  • Develop formal protocols to ensure that protestors are treated the same regardless of the color of their skin or their political viewpoints.

Finding: Salem Police Department needs to increase its capacity to recruit, test, hire, and promote individuals with diverse backgrounds.

Recommendation: Develop a recruiting, hiring and promotion strategy to strengthen hiring and promotion of candidates from diverse backgrounds.

  • Work with members of Salem's BIPOC communities to conduct recruiting activities with their members.
  • Invite members of Salem's BIPOC communities to serve on hiring board panels for new officers.

Finding: While the Salem Police Department has some youth-based outreach programs, it does not have the robust youth-based outreach and programs other agencies have been developing, and it is not currently operating its School Resource Officer program in a way that engenders the support of many of Salem's students and parents

Recommendation: Increase the number of youth-based programs and reevaluate the duties of school resource officers.

  • Conduct a formal staffing analysis that will help Salem Police Department and the City of Salem determine the appropriate staffing level to support additional programs for youth and to operate its school resource officer program in accordance with national best practices.

Finding: The City and Salem Police Department could make it easier for Salem residents to learn more about filing a complaint or a compliment.

Recommendation: Publish an annual report on complaints against officers.

  • Enhance the Department's website to provide more details about how to file a complaint or compliment.
  • Assess how the roles and responsibilities of the Community Police Review Board could help improve handle complaints against members of the Department, to include allowing Board to receive an initial complaint and then forward it to Salem Police for investigation, thereby accommodating some residents who may fear filing a complaint at an Police facility.

What's Next? 

Following the March 15, 2021 City Council Work Session, the City will host a series of community briefings to gather input on implementation of the Community Policing Performance Audit findings and recommendations.

Who was involved? 

To support this work and desired engagement with our community, the City assembled an advisory group of community leaders with expertise in areas of focus proposed in the audit.  The Steering Committee met seven times to review progress, discuss goals and objectives for the work ahead, and provide suggestions for further community listening sessions since October 2020.  All agendas and discussion summaries are available here

The Steering Committee received reports on more than 35 community listening sessions, with organizations and groups in our community.  Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, all briefings and listening sessions were conducted virtually.  Several Steering Committee members were able to sit in on the virtual meetings and reported appreciation for the open and honest candor of the conversations. 

Interviews and focused group community conversations conducted included:

  • African American clergy
  • Business community (Chamber of Commerce, Main Street, SEDCOR, Homebuilders Association, Realtors Association)
  • Center for Hope and Safety
  • Challenge to End Youth Homelessness
  • Community Policing Performance Audit Steering Committee members
  • Coordinated Outreach Providers
  • Department of Public Safety, Standards and Training
  • Grassroots organizers, activists and leaders 
  • Mano a Mano Focus Group
  • Mayor and City Councilors
  • NAACP Board
  • Neighborhood Association Chairs
  • Northwest Human Services (clinic, transitional programs, HOAP, hotline staff)
  • Salem Keizer School District leadership
  • Salem Community Police Review Board
  • Salem Human Rights Commission
  • Salem Health (emergency and security) 
  • The Challenge: Ending Youth Homelessness
  • Unsheltered resident focus group (through ARCHES)
  • Willamette Valley Communications Center
  • City of Salem: City Manager; Police Chief, command staff, union; Public Works, Community Development, and Fire departments.

Community members were encouraged to Share Your Story through the City's website.  The Audit describes input from the 140 stories submitted.

Why a performance audit? 

City Council and the community want to better understand how Salem police officers prepare for and interact with our community when they are the principal responder, even when the activity is unlikely to be criminal.  The performance audit was guided by several questions:

  • Are the Police Department's policies and tactics aligned with City Council and community values and expectations? Including when officers are present or responding to peaceful assemblies, permitted protests and demonstrations, and impromptu crowds?
  • What is the Department's capacity for community policing?
  • How effective are Salem police officers in engaging with all Salem residents, including unsheltered individuals and individuals experiencing behavioral health crises? 
  • How effective is the Department's engagement with youth? 
  • Are the Department's policies, tactics, or training biased or discriminatory? How effective are Salem police officers in engaging with members of our BIPOC community?
  • How effective are the Police Department and City's systems, policies, and procedures for officer accountability?

Third-party review 

Hillard Heintze was selected for the Community Policing Performance Audit.  Their team is impressive, bringing depth in policing, community engagement and equity and inclusion to the table. Evaluation committee representatives were experienced in accountability, performance auditing as a discipline, policing, outreach and engagement, committee facilitation, and policy analysis.

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Salem OR 97301
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