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Archive for Sunday, September 14, 1997

MORE POLICE PATROLLING LAWRENCE STREETS

September 14, 1997

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Police chief

The addition of several dozen officers in recent years and technology upgrades have Lawrence Police Chief Ron Olin optimistic about the local police department.

"The most important thing is interaction in our community in nonconfrontational ways," he said. "That's impossible if the only thing the police department does is respond from emergency call to emergency call."

That was the case a few years ago, Olin said, before voters approved a city sales tax that allowed the department to hire about 30 additional officers.

Other programs, such as President Bill Clinton's efforts to fund additional police officers with federal resources, have allowed Lawrence to add a few more men and women in gray.

Currently, the department has 113 officers who keep watch over the city on foot, while riding bicycles and in patrol cars.

Five more officers will be added to the department by next August, Olin said, following authorization by the city commission this year for the additional positions.

Although the city police department has jurisdiction on the Kansas University campus, a "gentleman's agreement" ensures that KU police patrol there unless city officers are requested, Olin said.

"There are occasions when the KU Police Department will require our assistance and there are occasions when we require the assistance of the KU Police Department," he said.

In addition, Lawrence police work closely with the Douglas County sheriff's office and the Kansas Highway Patrol.

"There's no question that cooperative working relationships maximize tax dollars," Olin said. "If KU could not draw on Lawrence resources and if we could not draw upon KU and the sheriff's office, we would need more police officers."

The chief said that Lawrence is a relatively safe community.

"I would say any amount of crime is too much, but compared to other places in the United States, we live in a very safe community and we want to work with the community to keep it that way."

In the last two years the department has been fighting to curtail what city officials have called an "emerging" gang problem here.

Olin said there is good news and bad news on that front.

"I'd have to say that gang activity is still a major concern of the department, but it's grown at a much less rapid rate than we have expected," he said.

Additional officers have allowed police to engage in more community policing, through downtown foot patrols, bicycle patrols and special programs.

The department is now able to provide speakers for schools and other groups who talk about personal safety and other issues.

In addition, upgrades in technology have or will allow for more effective policing, he said.

A new computer-aided dispatch system went on line July 22. The new system recommends response levels for various incidents.

"It streamlines the dispatch function," Olin said.

In the next year, he said, there could be additional technology improvements.

"We would expect, within the next six to eight months, the implementation of perhaps a new radio network," he said.

Or, the chief said, the department may obtain a new mobile data network that would allow officers to check license tags from their cars and other functions.

"The officers could be able to write their own reports in the car, and that data could be transferred to a computer," he said. "Ultimately, we would go paperless. There's a lot of excellent technology that has the potential to change policing in Lawrence."

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