Beloit’s new police chief says he is planning a few internal changes to help reduce crime and strengthen community ties with residents.
Andre Sayles has announced three short-term goals for the police department: reducing crime, improving community trust and implementing a peer-support program to improve the mental health of officers who respond to traumatic calls.
Beloit has seen a spike in gun-related crimes since last year. Sayles said he will use the department’s crime analyst to help disseminate intelligence to patrol officers and detectives.
“We want to use the data to put our officers in the right spots,” he said. “Our crime analyst is the oil of the engine that keeps our department running as it should. We’re going to be transparent with the community about where crimes are occurring in Beloit.”
In addition to using crime data, Sayles said the department will focus resources on “hot spot” areas that generate a majority of crimes and calls for service.
“I want us to be proactive, not reactive,” he said.
To help build trust, Sayles said the department will hold quarterly meetings with interdepartmental teams of officers who will meet with residents on the west and east sides later this summer.
“With the community response teams, they will be going to neighborhoods and talking to residents there and learning about what they are seeing and the things they are dealing with on a daily basis,” he said.
During the pandemic, the department had to suspend in-person community events, but Sayles plans to start holding them again with safety measures in place.
“That’s one of the biggest things over the next 90 days that we are going to get going again,” he said. “It’s one of our biggest things for outreach, and residents can have open and honest conversations with our officers. Our number one priority is doing these events safely.”
To grow the department, Sayles said he will find a staffer to handle recruitment, a role he previously performed. More than 60% of officers were hired within the last five years, and Sayles said the department will push for more racial and gender diversity.
“We need to represent the community that we serve,” he said. “We’re going to focus on bringing in candidates to Beloit. We have to be inclusive to everyone.”
He said police will continue to rely heavily on social media outreach and interactions with the community via platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
Coupled with online engagement, the department will try to show how valuable information from residents can be in solving crimes, Sayles said. People’s fear of coming forward hinders investigations and prevents families from getting justice, he said, and he urged residents to stand behind the information they provide.
“We will do everything in our power to protect a person’s identity if they are coming forward with information that could help bring closure to a grieving family,” he said. “Without our community, all of our hard work is for nothing. We need our community. They are central to everything we do.”