Delaware Wilmington

Wilmington Has A New Police Chief

It took awhile (this is the end of the 1st quarter of the Purzycki term), but Chief Robert Tracy officially took the helm of the Wilmington Police Department today. He has an impressive resume and a reputation for reducing crime by using data-driven strategies. The News Journal has some discussion of his background as well as some of his thoughts on the city. There is also a replication of his resume which is worth looking at.

“We chose the chief in large measure because of his demonstrable technical and leadership skills, his reputation for fairness and building trust in the community and his unmatched background in advanced policing strategies,” Purzycki said in announcing Tracy as his pick on Wednesday.

In Chicago, Tracy said he implemented crime reduction techniques that resulted in the lowest murder rate the city had seen in 50 years. He also said his strategies, policies and restructuring resulted in an over 30 percent reduction in crime during a four-year period and the lowest overall crime rate since 1972.

During Tracy’s tenure, Chicago officials like Chief Garry McCarthy and Mayor Rahm Emanuel lauded the decrease. But some found the record crime drop unbelievable.

From 1993 to 2010, Chicago’s annual crime levels dropped by 47 percent, according to Chicago police data reported by Chicago Magazine. But from 2010 to 2013, it dropped 56 percent — nearly 19 percent every year — the magazine reported.

The department’s data tool, CompStat, put pressure on police personnel to decrease crime numbers, the magazine stated in its April 2014 report which relied on information from unnamed sources within the department and several case studies. The department’s decrease in crime was in part attributed to changes to crime designations in the system, such as downgrading a homicide to “death investigation,” the magazine reported.

Those findings were supported by a 2014 audit by the Chicago Inspector General, which found a 24 percent undercount in victim offenses and 21 percent error rate in the reporting sample the office examined. A follow-up audit the following year stated that the Chicago Police Department had fully corrected the problem.

Tracy stands by the crime reduction numbers on his résumé. He said they reflect numbers from after the follow-up audit.

“There was no pressure to fudge statistics,” Tracy said. “I think it’s holding them accountable for the job they’re supposed to be doing and the strategies we have…. I’m looking for outcomes, I’m not looking for outputs.”

Tracy is “definitely” bringing CompStat to Wilmington. He may also reimagine community policing in the city.

I met Chief Tracy briefly on Wednesday. I liked him (I liked retired Chief Cummings, too) and especially found his ability to develop data driven crime strategies hopeful. Many are definitely wary of a Chief who has no prior connection to the city. But legendary police chiefs have moved from NY to LA and from DC to Philly and others to effect seismic change, so I think that the right person with the right mission and the right management skills can get it done.

As many of you know, I live in West Center City. It is been a killing field over here this winter and early spring. My hopes for this new Chief:

  1. Community Policing — NYPD has been working on a model that has been showing some success.  From where I sit, this doesn’t look to different from the model Chief Sczerzba implemented, except that this looks like a more performance-based model giving officers a pretty wide berth for implementing solutions.  We must have a venue where community members can learn to trust and partner with the WPD.
  2. A Just Use of CompStat — we all know the situation from The Wire where BPD executive command browbeat their commanders over CompStat data.  That wasn’t just TV — this has been an issue in many police departments.  Where this works (or has been made to work) is accompanying the need for accountability and results with procedural justice.  That means listening to and respecting officers and the community to make smart decisions that make communities safer, not just to pas a press release.
  3. Organizational Improvement — this is not just about getting the building under control and implementing a serious command posture, but also taking advantage of the skills and knowledge among the current force and working to up the skillsets overall to make sure that everyone is trained and participating in 21st Century policing.
  4. Real Crime Reduction — increase the safety for all of us and reduce the trauma for all of us.

Now, an improved WPD is not the whole answer to Wilmington’s crime problem.  But improved strategies with a force that is clearly focused on public safety (and not the political drama in their building) moves us forward and provides a safer place to work through some of our other issues.

I’m cautiously optimistic and will be watching closely.  Good luck, Chief Tracy.

6 comments on “Wilmington Has A New Police Chief

  1. That guy

    My hope for the new chief, along with what you said:
    1) accountability-everyone I have talked to agrees that being held accountable in all ranks and units would make a better police department. And have real consequences if they fail.
    2) clarity in purpose and mission, on an individual level as well as a department level. For too long there has been a blurriness in job function and unit function. The chief needs to re establish what is expected of each officer and position. Confusion leads to apathy
    3) esprit de corps- at one time the WPD had a pride that was founded on being an excellent police dept. the detective division was highly regarded throughout the state. It needs to get back to doing good work all the time.
    4) commitment to preserving the city and a shared responsibility for success and failures, officers often act like they are casual observers to what goes on in the city. There is a swagger to saying that they work in murder town and how dangerous it is. The chief needs to stop and change this.

    • The swagger thing is interesting. I live in West Center City, and these swaggering guys (any of the WPD guys) can be pretty thin on the ground.

      But I love your additions.

  2. delacrat

    The new police chief comes in with a $43K salary increase over his predecessor.

    That should go along way to get at the real roots of crime, such as job-offshoring.

    • The new Chief comes with a more 21st century skill set than his predecessor and took a pay cut to come here. One of the real problems in finding leadership for the WPD (which Williams ran right into immediately, after promising to go outside the department for leadership) is the salary. The WPD on the whole is underpaid — not just its leadership — for the extent of the challenges that they address. It is the toughest policing in the state and among the lowest paid. But no one hires good skills for free.

      And, just so you know, the Chief’s job does not involve fixing job-offshoring.

  3. Wondering

    Question: Does the City of Wilmington Police Department have a mandatory retirement age?

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