It’s kind of like Yelp for police officers.
The Guardian Score program uses customer satisfaction surveys to gauge how well Warrenton Police Department officers are interacting with the public. After a 90-day pilot programme, the department has a score of 4.98 out of 5.
The WPD is applying for a $4,500 “Make it Happen” grant from the PATH Foundation to extend the program for a full year.
When a WPD officer has an interaction with the public – a traffic stop, for instance, or a call at a resident’s home – the officer gives a business card to the resident with a QR code that is unique to the officer.
The resident can use the QR code to fill out a survey. The officer is scored on: the ability to explain “why;” listening skills; fairness; professionalism; and the ability to explain next steps. The survey includes about a dozen questions and a place for comments. Each survey may only be filled out once.
The results are captured on a dashboard that is accessible to every officer, supervisor and commander in the WPD.
Comments are checked through body cam footage. If a resident enters a negative comment on the survey, for instance, the body cam can confirm whether or not the officer behaved in a less than professional manner.
“This only works if you have and use body cams,” said Warrenton Chief Michael Kochis.
He said that 65 survey responses were received in the 90-day pilot period, and almost all were positive. Comments included: “Officer Asplundh was polite, professional and helpful;” “Officer Radel was nothing but professional … I look forward to be pulled over by him in the future,” and “She was very polite and understanding. She fully explained the situation with professionalism.”
One person who was given a traffic ticket found they couldn’t start their car when the encounter was over. That person wrote, “Big thanks to both officers who after pulling me over helped me jump start my car!”
On the Guardian Score Facebook page on Dec. 21, this comment from a Warrenton resident praised a WPD officer, “My young granddaughter was driving, and started crying when we were pulled over because of my failing to renew my tags. The officer couldn’t have been nicer and put my granddaughter at ease after explaining the law to both of us so it doesn’t happen again. Great experience, I think the survey thing is a good idea.”
Kochis said that he has noticed that since the Guardian Score system has been in place, his officers are being especially conscientious about making sure every encounter with a resident is polite and respectful. In a letter to the Warrenton Town Council about the program, Kochis wrote, “Knowing that their interaction may be evaluated has definitely made them focus on explaining the why, listening and explaining next steps. Having the ability to measure relational policing practices by evaluating confirmed interactions will not only change officer behavior, but also build upon community trust, which is so important.”
Moving forward, the QR codes will be added to officers’ own business cards instead of using a separate Guardian Score card. The WPD will also have the ability to personalize questions for specific officers, depending on the particular way that person interacts with the public.
The “Make it Happen” grant, if approved, will pay for the new business cards and maintenance of the dashboard.
The Warrenton Police Department is the first police department to use the Guardian Score, but the police department at Virginia Commonwealth University has recently started using the system.