-By Julia Steege-Reimann-
Eagan, Minnesota emerges as a national leader in safety through innovative community engagement and staffing models.
What do police officers serving coffee to residents, in depth training of fire department employees, and GIS tracking of community events have in common?
They each show Eagan, Minnesota’s innovative, above and beyond approach to safety.
“Eagan has always prided itself in our police and fire departments. In particular, we take pride in the character of our staff, the exceptional training we provide, and our dedication to our collective missions,” said Joe Ellickson, Director of Communications and Engagement.
“Eagan, Minnesota is a leader in public safety,” said Jade Arocha, Senior Research Analyst for Polco/ National Research Center. “They are proactive in finding the best ways to build relationships with the community, create efficiencies, and improve quality. This commitment has paid off in terms of resident satisfaction.”
The City of Eagan regularly conducts The National Community Survey (The NCS) to gather feedback from community members. Eagan, Minnesota’s leadership has earned the City consistently high ratings related to safety on the National Community Survey for the better part of the last decade.
Eagan earned a 2019 Voice of the People Award for Excellence in Safety. This is the only national award that honors local governments based on feedback from residents. The award is presented by Polco / National Research Center (NRC) and the International City & County Management Association (ICMA). This award acknowledges local governments that have the highest ratings on The NCS and that take the best actions on behalf of their communities.
Recently the City moved from having the second largest all-volunteer fire department in the state to becoming a modernized 24/7 department with 18 full-time firefighters.
All full-time staff are trained to be both licensed firefighters as well as either an EMT or paramedic. All fire staff are also trained fire inspectors to support fire prevention safety as well.
This model immediately showed results. Fire response times have been cut by seven minutes, leading to better safety for residents and less property damage.
Eagan’s Fire Chief Mike Scott was awarded the 2018 Minnesota Fire Chief of the Year as a result of the new staffing and training plan.
In addition to implementing effective new models for staffing and training, Eagan’s police have taken community engagement a step further than many departments nationwide.
“We are committed to engaging with the community, to build relationships,” said Ellickson.
While many communities host Coffee with A Cop opportunities, Eagan’s officers work as baristas to take orders from community members at their Coffee with A Cop event.
To connect with people, Police Department leaders track every neighborhood event through a GIS system and assign an officer for the event. This ensures that officers are at as many events as possible and can spend more time at each event.
One action that the Police department took that went viral nationally was Busted by the Bus. When bus drivers approached the Eagan Police about the rampant amount of distracted driving happening in and around school buses, Eagan’s police boarded an empty school bus to crack down on irresponsible driving around children.
In all, they made 131 traffic stops, issued 60 citations, and one arrest. The effort led to tens of thousands of likes, shares, and retweets on social media.
Last, the police department partnered with a community affairs group to host a community conversation called “Building Bridges and Trust Between You and the Police Department.” These conversations are especially relevant as the demographics of Eagan change.
Eagan will continue to keep innovating to improve the safety of the community.
“Our fire and police departments will continue to adjust our models and enhance our engagement tactics to fit the needs of the community and the culture,” said Ellickson.
Eagan is currently building a new police headquarters with enhanced technology. The department will continue to find new ways to engage the community and build relationships.