New chief is focused on community: New initiatives involve data driven policing, collaboration with residents and businesses
Three months ago, Bryan Schafer was just getting started in a new career as the head of Hastings’ police department. Now he’s much more familiar with the city, its people and the department, and he’s got a few ideas in mind to improve policing and serve the community.
Schafer joined the Hastings Police Department Nov. 4. Before taking the top police job here, he worked in the Minneapolis Police Department. His transition to Hastings has been going well, he said, and made easier because of the people here.
“People were so welcoming and continue to be welcoming,” he said.
“I feel like I’ve always been here.”
He’s been impressed by the cohesiveness of the community, the police department and the city, he said, and by how much everyone wants to help.
“It makes the job a lot easier,” he said.
The biggest challenges so far have been relatively simple; learning the community geographically and getting to know his employees in the department top the list. Getting to know the 29 employees in the police department isn’t difficult, he said, but it takes time to really get to know people and to develop a working relationship, and that’s a priority for him.
“I believe in relationship building,” he said. “I think it’s one of the key elements for leadership.”
He’s also learning his way around City Hall and city processes and learning to balance all the new administrative duties that come with being chief.
“My days go by so fast,” he said.
Focusing and refining
As Schafer continues to learn his new position, he’s incorporating a few new goals for Hastings police. It’s about focusing and refining, he said.
On the operations side of things, Schafer aims to incorporate more data-driven policing. He wants to use crime mapping software to identify problem areas in the city, he said, and use that data to better allocate department resources. Patrol officers know the areas, but their patrols are largely random. Using crime mapping statistics, he can better ensure that officers are getting to those areas.
Through data-driven policing, he hopes the department will be better able to reduce crime. Along with that, Schafer said he wants to bring more attention to police efforts to prevent and reduce crime in Hastings.
“We know (crime) is a concern to some,” he said.
On the community side, Schafer wants to see the community get more engaged with police, especially in problem areas. In some areas that might mean working more closely with businesses, while in other areas the approach may be more resident-centered.
With technology bringing all kinds of information into the department from so many places, another goal Schafer has is to centralize and streamline the way officers gather the information they need. Things like crime alerts, current crime hotspots, activity from previous shifts should be accessible from one place, he said.
Technology is the base of another focus Schafer is bringing to Hastings. He’d like to see the city and county focus more on “cyber-crimes,” or crimes that are happening electronically, like credit or check fraud, he said.
Throughout all his projects within the department, Schafer has set himself a personal objective as well for his time as Hastings’ Chief of Police.
“Through all of this, I’ve tried to stay involved as much as I can,” he said.
He’s been attending community social events like the recent Chamber of Commerce awards dinner, he helped deliver gifts with Hastings Family Service during the Christmas season and has been a guest speaker for a Hastings Rotary Club meeting. He has signed up for the upcoming United Way gala and, for the first time on Feb. 22, will be taking the plunge at the Polar Bear Plunge, presented by Law Enforcement for Special Olympics Minnesota.
Spending time to help the community is important to Schafer because it helps establish good relationships, he said. It helps make him more accessible to community members as well, giving them another opportunity to express their concerns. It’s also an opportunity to represent his department.
“The police department is community, and I’m the outward representation of the department,” he said.