Palatine police planning beat restructuring this year
The Palatine Police Department has launched a Narcan program and has several plans for 2021, including implementing use of drones, continuing to have officers certified in crisis intervention training, and changing its geographical police beats.
Police Chief Dave Daigle said COVID-19 derailed his plans last year for a "pretty significant beat restructuring" that will change the borders of five of seven police beats in town. The focus is Beat 8180 in the village's northeast area, which has several large multi-family apartment and condo communities, and the largest call volume by 30% or more.
The restructuring will allow officers in Beat 8180 "to go on more foot patrol, getting out of the squad cars, dealing with quality of life issues and really have those face-to-face interactions -- which is what it's all about," said Daigle, who's been chief since July 2019.
All Palatine officers were trained, starting in January, in administering Narcan for narcotic overdoses and now carry two doses of the medication, Daigle said. That was made possible by a program through a federal grant received by the Elk Grove Village Police Department, which partnered with the nonprofits Kenneth Young Center and Live4Lali and neighboring police departments to train first responders and others.
"Our fire department does such a tremendous job of getting to calls quickly, but if we can save one life (we will)," Daigle said.
Palatine police has 30 officers, out of a total 106, certified in crisis intervention training, and the pre-COVID-19 plan had been to double that in 2020. Daigle said he wants every member of the department, him included, to be certified, and hopes to achieve that in about two years.
The police department is almost ready to launch a drone program in conjunction with the Palatine Fire Department and the village's public works department, Daigle said. Two drones with infrared capacity will be especially useful when searching for missing people, he said. "That's going to be a nice tool to have."
Palatine police and other suburban departments are transitioning to a new system through Northwest Central Dispatch System that, among other things, will allow residents to file police reports online. Daigle said he hopes that will go live next month.
The department also is researching the purchase of body cameras, with preliminary estimates showing an expense of $300,000 in the first year with ongoing costs for data storage and an additional employee to handle video, he said.
Crime data for 2020 in Palatine mirrors trends across the suburbs: an increase in calls regarding mental health, domestic violence and child custody issues; fewer overall calls for service, traffic stops and citations. The largest spike in 2020 was in fraudulent unemployment claims, particularly in the latter part of the year. "That kind of caught us all off guard," Daigle said.
Last year, Palatine reported 384 incidents of violent crime -- including more thefts and motor vehicle thefts, and fewer burglaries -- compared to 350 in 2019 and 386 in 2018, which also had the last homicide.
2020 was a tough year, between the challenges of the pandemic and the general climate about policing with the Black Lives Matter protests, Daigle said. "We went into the year really concerned about how legalized cannabis was going to affect us ... but it's really become an afterthought. There's no real issues (with that)," he said. "I think a part of that is because COVID took over and we had to make so many changes."
The department has a total 135 employees including civilians. Less than 30 employees were diagnosed with COVID-19 and all have recovered, Daigle said.
The department also plans to adopt this year the "10 Shared Principles" devised in 2018 by the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and the Illinois NAACP to overcome mistrust between police and communities of color.
"When they first came out, we were looking at them and said, 'Hey, we already do these things,'" Daigle said. But given the change in climate regarding policing, the department decided that formal action matters, too, he said. "It's important that we throw our hat in the ring."