I remember sitting at the bar with my boss having a drink and I must have been complaining about something that was happening in the restaurant where I was a junior manager. His reply to me stuck like pitch to a tree.
“Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.”
This was a life changing moment for me for it did two things: It gave me permission to act on the problems I saw around me. It also challenged ME to find solutions for them. As I look back, this problem solving theme has followed me my whole life. I first remember learning the problem solving wheel in high school auto shop.
- How is it supposed to work?
- Locate what is not working
- Analyze why it is not working
- Repair or replace the affected component.
In auto repair it was straight forward. The engine needed fuel, spark and compression. One usually checked there availability in that order and implemented a repair or solution. Always remembering how it is supposed to work.
There is a burden that comes with the knowledge, or idea, of how things are supposed to work. The simple automotive example I just gave you was perfectly suitable back in the 50’s and 60’s for working on cars. The mechanism as a whole was simpler then. If you have dared to look under the hood of your car you will immediately realize that it is simple not more. Cars are so complicated that they need computers to run them, and even more computers to figure out what is not working.
IMHO, our civil society in analogous to the evolution of the automobile. What was once an intricate, yet simple, machine has become ever more complicated. How so? For starters, our numbers have increased. There are more of us in a smaller area. Harder to keep to ourselves. Resources are limited requiring us to live farther from our places of employment compounding our already long days with the stress of commuting. Add to that social pressures that insist that we recycle, conserve water and energy and shame us if we do not carpool or use public transportation. Our personal definition of morality seems to be in constant question depending on which flavor of faith, or lack thereof, we possess and hold dear. Our lives were once a simple engine needing fuel, spark and compression. Now we need to be computers to run them with other computers to help us find the problems and fix what is not working.
Okay, thanks for tagging along this far: Operation Ceasefire. Based on an evolving model started in Boston to reduce gun violence the cities of Oakland and Stockton have made great strides in their community policing by partnering with The California Partnership for Safe Communities. Stockton, as you may remember, also had a problem with reduced staffing levels, gun violence and police shootings. In 2012, new to Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones reignited Operation Ceasefire.
From a 2012 article by Joe Goldeen, “. . . Smith and several other volunteers have quietly taken to the streets to implement one component of Operation Ceasefire called Lifelines to Healing. Lifelines involves members of the faith-based community from PACT – People and Congregations Together – going out to neighborhoods targeted as violent criminal hot spots, based on data supplied by police.”
“They go out with the intent of establishing relationships; hence the name offering a ‘lifeline,’ to figure out what is driving this crime. What are the situations behind it?” Smith explained that time and time again, he’s heard from individuals who want to get out of a criminal lifestyle but have no clue where to begin.”
Operation Ceasefire works with hard data and input from local officers to identify those people most likely to instigate violent crimes. With community leaders and support from social services, volunteers reach out, develop relationship and seek to discover what issues are driving these individuals to commit these crimes. Time and time again, data from both Oakland and Stockton have shown that this approach significantly reduces violent crime. Oakland reported a 40% drop in gun related homicides and violent deaths.
I believe our Vallejo police officers are at risk due to reduced staffing levels. In order to feel safe they must rely on the simple Use of Force problem solving model that is allowed by current law. I applaud the outreach that the VPD has employed to improve community relationships. It shows to me that they are taking their jobs, and our feedback, seriously. But we have a complex engine here in Vallejo and we need a complex solution to address the misfires that we are having. In other words, WE, the concerned members of our community also need to get involved in building these relationships and not leave all of the heavy lifting to the police.
Mister Nyhoff, I encourage you to reach out to The California Partnership for Safe Communities and ask for their assessment and assistance with Vallejo’s Community Policing. And to you my gentle reader, you too need to encourage our elected officials to seek solutions such as this and to encourage the City Manager’s office to embrace this type of proven community engagement.
We are the computers who can fix this problem.
Until next time,