“We’re available, we’re visible, and we always have an attitude that we are here to help,” said Lyle Lombard, Director of Public Safety for the City of Fate, Texas. “It could be helping someone who is locked out of their vehicle, turning off water, or changing a tire. If we can be helpful, we try to be.”
The City’s active presence brought a sense of security to their community with successful community policing programs and excellent training.
Officials regularly conduct The National Community Survey (The NCS) to gather feedback from residents on the quality of the City. Fate particularly excels in creating a secure place to live. Ninety-seven percent of respondents said they feel safe during the day, and 92 percent of respondents said they have a high overall sense of safety.
"Fate’s Public Safety Department goes the extra mile to help residents in need. For this, they deserve to be commended," said Damema Mann, National Engagement Director for Polco/ National Research Center (NRC).
Fate’s efforts led to a 2021 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 received the highest positive ratings on The NCS ratings or drastically improved.
Firefighters, Police Officers, and EMTs
The Fate Public Safety Department cross-trains all officers as firefighters, police officers, and EMTs. It is uncommon nationwide for officers to be trained as all three. Doing so creates more well-rounded and competent first responders, which improves the public’s confidence in policing.
“We automatically get a 20 point bump in everyone’s perceptions of us because our officers are trained as firefighters, police officers, and EMTs. We are public safety, not just police. People like that,” Lombard said.
In fact, a number of Fate’s officers have won awards for saving lives in emergency situations while patrolling the neighborhoods. Plus, they’re fast.
“We have a faster response time than ambulances by 10 minutes. We have saved drowning and heart attack victims in that way,” said Lombard.
The City close-knit design also facilitates police visibility. Fate’s leaders have intentionally focused on infill development instead of building new neighborhoods.
“When you have new neighborhoods, it takes longer for police and fire to get to calls and they have more streets to patrol. We are intentionally reducing sprawl to help control the workload and to make our public safety personnel more visible,” said City Manager Michael Kovacs.
Educational and Available
Fate’s Public Safety Department works hard to be available to the public. Visibility is important for optics and interactions where they can educate and help residents.
For example, the Fire Department keeps the doors of the station open and the fire truck outside as much as possible. They want the public to see them out in the open cleaning the trucks and maintaining the equipment.
“It shows the community we are here and ready to respond,” Lombard said.
They also assign officers to be a liaison for a specific neighborhood to improve police-resident relationships. These officers are the first main contact for that neighborhood. They attend block parties and other events to discuss any community concerns.
“This strategy allows residents to have one person to contact instead of contacting administration and getting directed all over the place. It builds relationships,” Lombard said.
Officers are always looking for an opportunity to help residents in need. They are known to help install smoke detectors, turn off the water after the pipe freezes, and assist motorists to change flat tires.
Additionally, Fate’s Public Safety Department aims to give warnings for 80 percent of their stops. They see the stops as an educational opportunity–not always an invitation to hand out tickets.
“We enforce when we need to but we always ask ‘Do they need a citation or do they need to be arrested?’ A lot of times the answer is no,” Lombard said. "Sometimes contact with the police changes the behavior just like that. We make it a point to be more educational and not as heavy-handed.”