Calera PD switches to beat system

Published 11:14 am Monday, July 7, 2008

By AMY GORDON / Staff Writer

Calera police officers have started their switch to a beat system for patrolling, said Chief Sean Lemley.

The city is currently broken down into two beats, the north beat and the south beat. There are cars to patrol those two areas, as well as floating cars to answer calls between the two beats, Lemley said.

The beat system is more effective because officers are able to cover a smaller area instead of having to patrol the entire city, he said.

“Instead of patrolling 130 square miles, they patrol a 50 mile area,” he said. “When you’re assigned to a beat, you’ll have to spend more time in a concentrated area, so you’re going to patrol the side streets and the neighborhood more effectively.”

When police officers have to patrol the entire city, they are unable to effectively control side streets. Instead, the officers tend to get on the main roads and drive from one end of the city to the other, Lemley said.

The Calera police department is running at almost full personnel, with 25 officers and two openings. Some officers are almost done with training, and once that happens, they’ll be assigned shifts and go on the beat system.

Having full personnel available is essential to the success of the system, Lemley said.

“The system depends on full personnel and on call volume,” he said. “The officers have to go to where the calls are, and if they can’t stay on the beats, it may not work. If calls are continuous, then the system kind of falls apart.”

Under normal circumstances with full personnel, there should be enough officers out to answer calls without straying from the beat areas.

“If we have more people out on the streets, they can stay on their beats better,” Lemley said.

The beat system should help the department save on fuel costs, Lemley said.

“I feel it’s going to conserve fuel because they don’t have as large an area to patrol. You’re not getting out to the main drives as much,” he said.

However, the fuel savings was a secondary benefit to the beat system. The system was utilized because it works, Lemley said.

“There are a lot of places that use it. Shelby County does it and the Birmingham Police Department does it,” he said. “So it’s proven to work. It’s been a goal of mine for a while. I always liked the beat system.