Sunday, June 13, 2021

Southlake Police Department Works Together to Protect Team During COVID-19

There are two aspects of the law enforcement profession that are constant: the call to act in an individual’s time of need and having to rely on others in your own time of need. Both aspects of a law enforcement career carry their own situational rules, all of which are aimed and geared towards providing a level of service to meet any identified need, regardless of the severity or quantity of people effected.

Many times officers are called upon by members of the community in times of duress, which can range from being stranded alongside the roadway in need of a tire change to other more serious instances involving a family crisis or in extreme cases, the need for protection against a family member or strangers. Without initially having all the specific facts for these types of emergencies, officers are expected to arrive prepared in their response while still acting within the confines of the law. However, what about the times when officers themselves need help, who can they call on for support?

In situations such as these, officers may turn towards their own and the assistance comes from within the agency or sometimes by other outreach groups within the community. Realizing that none of us have ever lived through the COVID-19 pandemic before, it has become a fast and accelerating learning curve for all. However, during this time, three individuals within the Southlake Police Department have worked behind the scenes and without recognition to keep all members of the agency, as well as other work groups within the City, protected when called upon to protect and meet the needs of the community.

Officer David Aldridge, Community Initiatives Coordinator Valerie Snyder and Administrative Secretary Diana Green have relentlessly searched for, coordinated and gathered needed supplies to keep officers of the Southlake Police Department in business since the beginning of the pandemic.

From the start of the COVID pandemic, Aldridge stepped up and assisted the Police Department in gathering Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other sanitation equipment. As the pandemic continued, Aldridge helped in creating a PPE and sanitation inventory to keep track of all PPE equipment for the department. During that time, he also became the main contact for Purchasing Manager Tim Slifka on receiving all PPE orders from the City and distributing them accordingly.

Aldridge worked closely with Snyder and Green to make sure items were ordered and distributed accordingly.

“Aldridge went out of his way on numerous occasions to be available for anyone who needed the PPE equipment and sort out all the shipments to make sure it got to the right department,” Patrol Captain Jose Luna said. “On top of it all, Aldridge is in charge of the patrol units for the department. During this pandemic, he also took a shipment of three new patrol vehicles and has worked hard to get them ready to hit the road. Officer Aldridge has always been a team player and makes himself available for anyone who needs assistance.”

Through coordinated efforts, Snyder and Green have reached out to numerous companies, supply chains, independent contractors and even generous citizens, in order to obtain basic needed supplies such as: hand sanitizer, gloves, masks, face shields, Tyvek suits and other sanitary products. Through their assistance, they have obtained enough supplies to build Aldridge’s inventory to allow officers to still function within the confines of the law and to respond to emergencies when called upon in time of need.

“I have directly witnessed Valerie’s assistance and the impact she has on the agency. Her ability to think outside of the box coupled with her intuitive nature, allowed her to navigate unknown systems where numerous individuals or corporations were applying and competing for the same resources,” Professional Standards Division Captain Jason Henninger said. “In many instances, it came down to the relationships she had previously built that allowed our agency to receive what was needed, which is immeasurable. Due to her ability to build these types of professional working relationships the agency recognizes her as a true and exceptional asset.”

The work of these three individuals has not been overlooked or forgotten, and will forever stand as examples of Innovation, Commitment to Excellence and Teamwork!

Southlake’s Commitment to Highest Standards of Safety and Security Visible in Proposed FY 2020 Budget

Maintaining the highest levels of safety and security is one of the City of Southlake’s top priorities. The proposed FY 2020 budget was prepared with the idea of ensuring that strategic investments are made to advance the City’s safety goal. These investments will help further protective measures and policies that reduce danger, risk or injury to all those who live, work or visit Southlake.

A crisis can happen at a moment’s notice, and while the City can’t always prevent a crisis from happening, it can take measures to ensure a feeling of safety and security in Southlake.

“It’s so important to maintain the highest standards of safety, security and protection so our residents are able to enjoy a high quality of life in Southlake,” said City Manager Shana Yelverton. “We always aim to minimize the risk, but if something does happen, we want residents to rest easy knowing we are prepared to handle it.

We have some of the highest trained and accredited professionals watching out for Southlake. I can promise that when they go into a situation they are confident in their decision making and are looking out for the best interest of those involved. This proposed FY 2020 budget is an investment that allows the City to ensure people are living their best possible lives.”

To maintain a high level of public safety, the City is focused on a number of key initiatives for the coming year, including school safety, building services funding, mosquito vector control, providing necessary equipment and training for police and fire personnel’s continued excellence, and funds to upgrade the Emergency Operations Center.

While keeping Southlake safe includes the work of the Police, Fire Department and Emergency Management, it also includes the work of many other City departments. Building inspectors and plan examiners work day after day to ensure the buildings in Southlake are held to the highest building code standards. Public Works maintains infrastructure throughout the City to make sure your water is safe to drink and the roads are safe to drive on. The FY 2020 budget has allocations to help sustain all those efforts.

One priority focus is school safety. This includes funding for maintain school zone flashers and crosswalk striping and the ongoing funding for School Resource Officer Program, of which $1.6 million is allocated in FY 2020. The program places at least one SRO in every Carroll ISD school.

“Keeping our students safe is always a top priority of the Southlake Police Department,” said Police Chief James Brandon. “Our SROs care deeply about the students and school faculty they protect every day. They take tremendous pride in a safe, protected environment where students can focus on learning.”

The Police Department will also purchase equipment such as additional body cameras and replacements for laser radars and tasers for our officers. The Fire Department will also be purchasing not only fire protective gear but will also replace two vehicles in their fleet.

The proposed FY 2020 Vehicle Replacement Fund will allow the Fire Department to replace a 2008 brush truck for $240,000 and a 2007 platform ladder truck for $1.6 million.

The City’s Vehicle Replacement Fund accounts for the resources needed to manage the purchase of vehicles for the City’s fleet. The establishment and funding for the vehicle replacement program was designed to even out expenses for the City’s fleet from year to year and provide a logical method for purchasing and retiring vehicles.

“We’re constantly looking ahead and making sure that when a vehicle is replaced, it’s planned and accounted for,” said Assistant City Manager Alison Ortowski. “The two vehicles being replaced in the Fire Department are more than 10 years old and have served us well.”

The Fire Department will also be making investments in upgrading the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). The EOC allows for City emergency personnel to gather in one central location to help mitigate a situation in time of crisis. Having the EOC as up-to-date as possible provides the City with an extra degree of readiness.

“Readiness is about ongoing training and having the equipment and materials we need to get the job done,” said Fire Chief Michael Starr. “The EOC is a great asset that allows us to best manage any incident that comes our way. It brings many resources together and provides what we need to stay focused, confident and use our best judgment when making important decisions that will impact the City in high-stress situations.”

All of the safety and security investments outlined in the proposed FY 2020 budget allow for the City to prepare to be ready for crisis and protect the community while making lives safer. Interested in learning more about other safety and security investments? Visit the City of Southlake website at www.CityofSouthlake.com/FY2020.

City of Southlake Wins PRSA Silver Anvil Award

The City of Southlake is the recipient of the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Silver Anvil Award for the Most Effective Campaign $5,000 Or Less, Government.

“I am so proud of Southlake DPS and the City for their amazing efforts,” said Southlake Mayor Laura Hill.  “They have taken a humorous yet effective approach to ensure the safety and security of the people who live, work, and drive in Southlake. I love how they went about it.”

In early 2018, the Police Department set a goal to “Humanize the Badge” and to eliminate the “cop talk” that often tended to be formal and uninviting.

What replaced it?  A fun, pop culture driven social media strategy that would help cement the public’s trust with a nationally accredited Police Department that protects, is compassionate, and engages with the people they serve.

“The innovative and unconventional approach took a leap of faith,” said City Manager Shana Yelverton. “But we felt the risk was worth it to get important messages to the public in a form they could digest and enjoy.”

“We had a good following on the Southlake DPS Facebook accounts,” said Police Chief James Brandon.  “But with our change in strategy, we saw a 285% increase in Facebook followers, which was important to achieving a crowdsourcing approach to ensuring safety and security.”

As the following grew, the posts focused on three main areas: sound police management practices and protocols, the officers’ professional training, and their relationship-building activities.  But make no mistake, the approach was anything but ordinary.

People started noticing after a Facebook and Twitter post called “GURL CALL ME.”

The post was a “letter” written to a woman suspected of identity theft. The letter was much more than the usual, “we are looking for this criminal” narrative, as it used emojis and “teen girl talk” to give facts about the case and also signed off with the now infamous phrase GURL CALL ME. With this post, the Southlake DPS Facebook page saw its following double in less than 24 hours, reaching more than 3.1 million people and 1.7 million engagements.

The person behind the video, memes, and fun writing is Officer Brad Uptmore. His Baylor University film degree along with 12 and half years of police experience, was put to work to make the strategy come alive. Since that first viral post, Uptmore has created more than several dozens of videos including the popular Pumpkin Spice Citations video and the Use Your JAR JAR BLINKER when driving on Star Wars Day video.  He’s also created dozens of memes including the long-standing joke/reminder to drive 30mph on Randol Mill since it’s a road construction zone.  But despite the light-hearted demeanor, Officer Uptmore is all business when it comes to safety and security.

“It is such a privilege to do this job,” said Officer Uptmore. “Chief Brandon’s willingness to let me try different ideas to help people be safe and make safe choices as well as get to know our officers? It’s a win-win!”

Since 1944, PRSA has awarded Silver Anvil Awards annually to organizations around the world for outstanding strategic public relations programs. According to the PRSA website, judges look for programs or campaigns “that incorporate sound insights and analysis, planning, execution, and evaluation. They must meet the highest standards of performance in the profession.”

The Silver Anvil Award for the Most Effective Campaign $5,000 Or Less, Government is the City of Southlake’s first PRSA Silver Anvil Award.

Operation #SAFEdragon Coming Soon to Carroll ISD

The Carroll ISD Board of Trustees approved Phase 1 of Operation #SAFEdragon at their meeting on June 24. This program will begin making improvements to campus safety as soon as possible.

The goals of Operation #SAFEdragon (Safety Awareness For Every Dragon) are to 1) improve safety and security within Carroll ISD; 2) fortify facilities; 3) promote emergency preparedness among students and staff; 4) put plans in place to restore CISD activities as soon as possible after an emergency; and 5) provide crisis support to students and staff. Under the umbrella of Operation #SAFEdragon, School Resource Officers (SROs) on every campus and drug and alcohol surveys for the middle school and high school campuses have already been approved. The SROs at every campus are being funded by Southlake’s Crime Tax.

Once implemented, Operation #SAFEdragon will benefit every CISD campus, facility and department. When looking at the changes proposed, the Board asked Administration to prioritize the program into phases. Trustees agreed June 24 to fund Phase 1 projects using existing budgets and/or an intent to reimburse Fund Balance.

In addition to the safety strategies listed below, Carroll ISD will be adding an online volunteer application as well as the eTrak Pilot Program.

Currently, CISD satisfies the law by running all volunteers through the RAPTOR system. In order to further promote student safety, all volunteers will now be required by CISD to submit an application for approval to volunteer in CISD schools. This application will be an easy online process where volunteers will read the Volunteer Handbook and policies before consenting to a background check. The entire process will be completely confidential, and the campuses will only receive a list of approved volunteers. CISD anticipates that most volunteer applications will be approved without restrictions or denials. This volunteer policy in no way affects a parent’s ability to visit the campuses, but only those wishing to volunteer. Please watch for additional information regarding the approval process and how to complete the application.

Carroll ISD will also be introducing the eTrak Pilot Program which will be used to increase staff communication in the event of a crisis. Under this program, CISD will be using 100 eTrak devices, which are small enough to wear on a keychain or fit in a pocket. In this trial run, these devices will be placed in the hands of a few teachers and administrators at each of the campuses and will send a GPS signal to constantly track the device and its owner’s location. When the button on the device is pressed, it will send an emergency signal to local law enforcement dispatchers and school officials, instantly pulling up the exact location of the emergency. As the first school district in the area to use this technology, CISD aims to increase communication and decrease response time in the event of an emergency or disaster.

Phase 1 will also include:

  • Student ID key swipes for both high school campuses
  • High School shuttle bus surveillance cameras
  • New elementary school fencing around playground areas
  • A second RAPTOR sign-in station at each campus
  • Pre-set text messaging system for parent and staff updates
  • Additional directive signage at campus entrances and exits
  • Playground monitoring protocols for staff
  • High school Crimestoppers program
  • CISD safety hotline and website
  • Talk About It, an anti-bullying project for grades 5th-12th
  • Back-to-school safety fair for parents (See coming Safety Fair article for more info)
  • Safety training for staff
  • Mass-gathering procedures for high-traffic events
  • Communication of CISD’s infectious diseases protocols
  • Continued community safety education
  • An online school safety survey
  • Crisis cards for each classroom and employee
  • Safety tip sheets for staff and parents

All of these strategies will be implemented to make Carroll ISD a safer and more prepared district for students and staff. To learn more about Operation #SAFEdragon, how CISD is handling school safety and what you can do to help, attend the Carroll ISD Safety Fair on Wednesday, August 21 from 4-6 p.m. at Carroll High School. This event will be held in conjunction with the Southlake Departments of Public Safety, and more information will be given as the date approaches.