In its 2021 report, the National Urban League highlights the Norfolk (Virginia) Police Department (NPD) for its innovative Telephone Reporting Unit. Under a section on page 14 entitled “A New Normal For Responding to Police Calls”, the report explains how NPD began the program in March 2020 and expanded it as the 2020 pandemic escalated.
“Modified duty officers, in most cases recovering from an injury, were eager to return to work but were not medically cleared for full duty status. The innovative Telephone Reporting Unit (TRU), launched on March 23, 2020, allowed these officers to respond to reports requiring sworn officer expertise and knowledge of departmental policies and Virginia law. Since its inception, the TRU has handled over 8,500 reports and calls for service, allowing street officers to focus on more serious crime issues.
“Inspired by the success of the TRU, Chief Larry D. Boone directed staff to implement a more interactive option for citizens accustomed to having officers respond to their homes and businesses, to take routine reports. Insistent that technology could allow citizens to interact with an officer, he tasked the department’s Technology Support Unit (TSU) with developing a platform.
“In October 2020, the NPD Live was introduced to the public. This innovative option allows citizens to speak to an officer utilizing social media platforms such as Microsoft Teams. The process is simple: A citizen contacts the 911 dispatcher and relays their requested service. If it is not a crime in progress and fits the TRU criteria for calls for service, the message is forwarded to a TRU officer to contact the citizen and provide options available. If the citizen wants to use the NPD Live video system, a link is sent, and the officer connects with the citizen within minutes.
“This ability to ‘see’ the officer and interact on a more personal level has been a comfort to many citizens, Boone says, calling it a ‘win-win scenario’ that protects both officers and citizens from unnecessary exposure during the pandemic and provides effective service with a personal touch.
“The program continues to expand as more citizens become aware of the options available to them, and the Norfolk Police Department intends to continue, even in the post pandemic and police reformed world.”
The full report is available at www.StateOfBlackAmerica.org.