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Chief O'Neil Reflects on His First Six Months
Chief Dan O'Neil

I have been serving in the role of Police Chief for about six months. The time has flown, and it is important that I share with you what I have been doing with our police department.

From day one, I started thinking about a long-term plan for the agency. I inherited a police department that had 10 police officer vacancies, including two command staff vacancies. I remain focused on recruiting high caliber individuals with the highest degree of character and integrity to add to our professional police department. We have created a robust mentoring program with the assistance of Human Resources focused on reaching diverse members of our community.

In December, I selected three members of the department to attend an intensive five-day program that teaches officers the science behind human performance and behavior in high-stress encounters, nationally recognized de-escalation methods, interview techniques, and methods to ensure use-of-force is only used in correlation to the actual threat. Having officers trained at this high level will improve our ability to develop training not only in our agency, but in the region.

I would like to directly address use of force in the Auburn Police Department. I recently made a public statement reminding our community that the use of excessive force is not tolerated by the Auburn Police Department and that I expect all officers to treat every person they encounter with respect and dignity. I believe our record shows that. For example, in 2019 Auburn Police Officers responded to 86,062 incidents. There were 214 uses of force as a result of those police encounters, meaning that only 0.25% of all contacts resulted in a use of force. We will continue to work to ensure that number is always that low or lower.

In January, I promoted two commanders and one sergeant. In order to improve the promotional process, I added a 360-degree roundtable. I also included a Department Director from outside the law enforcement profession as an assessor. Previously, the command staff reviewed evaluations and had roundtable discussions about the candidates before the chief made an appointment. This process only evaluated candidates from a follower perspective. This new process provided an opportunity to gain a perspective from a peer and subordinate lens, measuring how well officers might follow them as leaders.

The leadership team was presented leadership expectations and we established goals and objectives for 2020.

The leadership expectations include: Engagement, People First, Professional, Chain of Command, Timely, Innovative, Core Values, Open Minded, Do Your Very Best, and Community Involved.

Organization Goals and Objectives for 2020 are:

  • Improve the safety of city parks through directed patrols and enforcement initiatives, creating a place for all residents to visit and play.   
  • In order to develop a younger organization and plan for the future, the agency will develop a plan for succession.
  • The Auburn Police Department will aggressively explore innovative methods of policing so that they can increase unobligated patrol time. Increased unobligated patrol time will be used to focus on reducing violent crime.
  • In order to increase trust and transparency with the community, we will focus on the use of our social media platform.
  • In order to improve the overall wellness of officers, we will review our current program and research new innovative programs being implemented across the country.

In February we established a Labor Management Committee (LMC) with training provided by PERC. A LMC will create a better working relationship between police labor unions, police management, and the city.

In February we also established a Culture Climate Committee. There are ten employees who are a part of this committee, meeting monthly, to discuss and create action plans related to improving the culture of the organization.

In 2019, Auburn Police Employees received 93 commendations which included 11 lifesaving medals. There were 18 total internal investigations, 12 of which were generated from inside the police department as we reviewed the work and conduct of our employees. Six of the internal investigations were generated by community members outside of the department. We are currently conducting a review of our discipline and internal investigations process to ensure it is fair, consistent, and meeting the needs of our community.

Auburn Police Department employees attend an average of 17,000 hours of training each year. This training consists of anti-bias-based policing, generational differences, de-escalation, use of force, ethics, firearms, defensive tactics and crisis intervention training. De-escalation techniques are a part of all defensive tactics training which officers attend four times a year. Additionally, all members of the police department will be attending the 10-hour anti-bias based policing course at CJTC.

To further our connection to the community and promote positive interactions with youth, I am proud to announce that the Auburn Police Department is getting a mascot! The mascot will visit the elementary schools in the City of Auburn, and we will hold a contest to name it, hopefully when school returns in the fall. The mascot will be present at community events, visit the schools, and focus on community engagement. Stayed tuned for the unveiling of the newest member of our community!

As you can see, it has been a busy six months with a lot of change. Unfortunately, this is only a portion of what I wanted to accomplish. The Covid Crisis has limited community gatherings has prevented community interaction – something all of our officers value very much. I am very proud of the men and women of the Auburn Police Department. We will not stop in our vision to be a premier law enforcement agency that is trusted, supported, and respected by our community. In order to better serve you, I need to continue to hear about your needs.

Daniel O'Neil
Chief of Police