In his first year as chief of the Hastings Police Department, Adam Story wanted to enhance the transparency of the department.
To that end, Story said, the department last year started to provide more statistics from its activities in reports to the Hastings City Council. Among the new statistics is the number of complaints against officers and any use of force.
The department put in place a new review process for use-of-force incidents. Each time a use of force occurs, a review is completed to make sure the officer acted in accordance with the policy.
“We were wanting more than one level of review,” Story said.
Providing additional information to the City Council is only the latest step the department has taken to be as open as possible.
In 2016, the department equipped officers with body cameras. While the devices are limited in the viewpoint they can record, Story said, they have enhanced officer safety and provide a way to verify an officer’s statements. He said any inappropriate actions can be used as teaching moments for officers.
Last year, the department went through and updated its body camera systems and storage. Story said the department keeps the videos from body cams and in-car camera systems for longer than required by law, which required more storage space. Worn systems also were replaced where needed.
Improving transparency is only one goal the department worked on last year.
Every year, the HPD administration meets to determine goals for the upcoming year. Many of those goals carry over from one year to the next, with parts being implemented over time.
Continuing to improve the training for officers is another of those goals.
Story said the department also has been training officers in more ways to assess threats and additional tools to resolve situations more safely. Officers learned de-escalation techniques as well as more non-lethal force options.
“Our officers have been trained in tactics to resolve a situation without violence,” he said. “It’s safer for citizens and officers.”
The department has been developing tools and training officers to investigate cyber crime.
HPD also obtained new equipment and conducted training with officers and staff. The department invested in tools like disruptive devices such as shields and less lethal projectiles.
“We don’t want to overreact, but we also have to be prepared,” Story said. “We have to be able to help our own citizens.”
Another new gadget in the department’s toolbox is an unmanned aircraft system, or drone.
Police need a licensed pilot to operate it, as well as a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly within the city limits.
Due to FAA airspace restrictions around the Hastings Municipal Airport, nearly the entire city is in a no-fly zone. Story said the department has applied for a waiver to be able to operate within the city. The drone will be available for any city office.
Once the authorizations are in place, he said, officers plan to use the drone to help with search and rescue by being able to provide an aerial search.
HPD added GPS mapping for police vehicles so that dispatchers can see each officer’s location to be able to assign calls based on proximity.
Story said the data also can be used to develop patrol patterns so officers can pay more attention to areas of town with more criminal activity.
The department has been working to increase opportunities for officers to interact with the community. Officers have been talking to groups in town. Officers have participated in providing Secret Santa gifts and a Shop With a Cop campaign where children purchased family gifts with the help of an officer. They also participated in a cancer fundraiser called the Pink Patch Project.
“We are always encouraging our staff to be involved,” he said.
Looking forward to 2019, Story said the department will continue to develop. Administrators soon will meet to decide on goals for 2019.
Story said he’s looking forward to another successful year as chief, made possible by the officers under his command.
“They are the ones who are doing it,” he said. “They do a great job day in and day out.”