Located about halfway between Austin and San Antonio lies the city of New Braunfels, one of the fastest growing cities in Texas—and in America. With a booming population of 96,000 and no sign of slowing with so many large corporations moving into the area (aka Elon Musk), there’s added pressure to keep officer headcount up to meet the city’s public safety needs.
The New Braunfels Police Department (NBPD), like the majority of police agencies in America, has experienced a lot of movement in their staff recently, including a new Chief of Police and three new Lieutenants. With a current staff of 149 sworn (170 total including professional staff), NBPD is balancing a lot of ‘moving parts’ to serve the needs of its staff and its growing community.
- 149 sworn officers
- 96,000 population
- Guardian Tracking, 2021
Lieutenant James Bell has served in law enforcement for 22 years, of which 20 have been with the NBPD. Starting his career as a police officer in 2001, he has served in many roles over his tenure, including Field Training Officer (FTO), Corporal (supervisory role), Detective (juvenile crime), Sergeant (evening shift), Criminal Investigation Division, and currently in the Administration Office of Professional Standards, which includes the responsibilities of Internal Investigations and the Training Division. When Lt. Bell took over his current role, he found that the Department was tracking information about officer conduct on spreadsheets and paper files.
“There were no checks and balances,” said Lt. Bell. “The system was paper records, in a filing cabinet somewhere, and you had to understand the predecessor’s system to know where to look for something. It didn’t make sense and we needed a system that was reliable and one that anyone could access.” Sometimes referenced as the “IA Guy” by his colleagues, Lt. Bell started searching for a better system for the internal affairs process that would not only improve accountability, but also identify officers in need of additional training. “We always start with training,” said Lt. Bell.
Lt. Bell said they started talking to other agencies to learn what they were using and NBPD first looked at a product called IAPro, but “it seemed archaic and old tech, which our young officers readily recognize,” explained Lt. Bell. They then learned about Guardian Tracking, and after a conversation with one of the company representatives, they were convinced it was the better solution. “Paul [Guardian Tracking representative] knew what he was talking about,” said Lt. Bell. “He was legit.” NBPD implemented Guardian Tracking in early 2021 and although they have only been using the solution for about a year [at the time of this writing], they have made a lot of progress with the solution in that time.
“The previous system for investigating use of force complaints and other officer misconduct was broken,” said Lt. Bell. “It would take months for an After Action Report to be completed. Since it was in paper form, it would get shuffled from desk to desk. By the time the information got back to the people who needed it, it was six months later and by then the involved officer already had an additional seven or eight reps of doing it the wrong way, which could get them and the PD in more trouble. We needed something faster, something that could not get lost. Guardian Tracking fixed that problem immediately.”
Lt. Bell listed several examples of how they are benefiting from Guardian Tracking:
A positive and motivating workplace culture not only recognizes high performance, it also encourages it. The more NBPD officers and leaders use Guardian Tracking, the more impactful and valuable the program becomes. In addition to standardizing and improving the process for both high (and low) performing employees, Guardian Tracking also helps identify good prospects for promotions and leadership opportunities. And with officer recruitment and retention having such a high priority in a growing community, agency culture and good leadership are key components.
"The longer we have the system, the more value we will get out of it,” said Lt. Bell. “I may never see the full value of the Guardian Tracking program in my tenure, but that’s okay because my family lives in this town. If my father or kid has an interaction with an NBPD officer, I want them to be handled respectfully and professionally."
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