Oxford Police Department
Award Year: 2021
Safety Category: Comprehensive Safety
Additional Award Year: N/A
Oxford, Alabama is approximately 32 square miles with an approximate population of 22,000 citizens. Interstate 20 travels east and west through the city with U.S. Hwy 78 traveling parallel to Interstate 20. Alabama Hwy 21 travels north and south crossing under Interstate 20 and through U.S. Hwy 78. All of which make Oxford a thoroughfare between Atlanta, Ga and Birmingham, AL. The OPD currently employs 70 sworn peace officers. Since 2007 the department has been under the leadership of Chief Bill Partridge.
All officers are issued custom fit soft body armor and are required to wear it while on duty and during firearms range training. All department members are also issued ballistic helmets and members of the Emergency Services Unit are issued ballistic shields and gas masks. Officers are also issued a tourniquet and required to wear them on their person at all times. All officers are also issued a Taser, an AR-15 patrol rifle, a shotgun and handgun and are required to qualify quarterly. The department also has a firearms simulator and conducts shoot/don’t shoot training, as well as a driving simulator. All patrol vehicles are equipped with an individual first aid kit in a red bag on the driver’s side door. This kit contains a Tourniquet, Chest Seals, Gloves, Burn Wrap 4×4, Hemostatic Gauze, Shears, 4” Emergency Trauma ap, a Mini BDS40 Fire Suppression/Cooling Device, personal protective equipment and officers receive annual specialized medical training from the City of Oxford Fire Department. As you will read in the submission, OPD has used this equipment and training to save many lives. Officers are also issued reflective vests and are required to wear them whenever they are out of their patrol vehicles for extended periods of time.
OPD officers are also issued body-worn cameras and are required to wear them at all times. Footage from these cameras are routinely reviewed by supervisors to ensure professional conduct by the officers, as well a safeguarding the officers from false claims of misconduct.
In 2017 the department purchased a Lenco Bearcat. The Bearcat is an armored tactical vehicle, built to provide blast and ballistic protection. The Bearcat can be used in a multitude of situations and can withstand 50 caliber rounds. The Bearcat provides protection to officers allowing them to enter potentially deadly situations. The armor of the Bearcat allows officers to rescue downed officers, wounded citizens, and helps to evacuate citizens from life threatening situations like a barricaded gunman or active shooters. The Bearcat paid for itself in 2019 when the Emergency Services Unit was called out to where a suicidal person began shooting at officers from the residence and then barricaded. The department’s robot had just breached the front door and began communicating with the suspect. The Suspect then fired multiple weapons at the robot disabling the robot. The suspect then fired a shot into the windshield of the Bearcat but the bullet resistant glass stopped the round, saving the lives of the two officers inside.
This department also has several different robots to make entry into residences and communicate with barricaded suspects. In addition to the robot program, the department has a robust drone program. By having specially trained officers to operate the drones, the OPD can gather crime scene intelligence in real time and relay this data back to the command post. The department also has a Tactical Aviation unit which features helicopters and specialized training for flight officers on how to distinguish and describe locations to officers on the ground to give the officer possible locations of suspects or suspect vehicles.
The OPD is also heavily involved in active shooter training, with Chief Partridge being the lead instructor. The department purchased Simunitions weapons to create more realistic training.
OPD recently updated their night vision capabilities and now have brand new PVS 14 style night vision with green phosphorus. These can be mounted to ballistic helmets for hands free use. Night vision allows the ESU to see in no light situations to enhance their safety as they can see their surroundings while on callouts.
OFFICER TRAFFIC SAFETY
OPD has a FARO 3D laser scanner to record measurements as quickly as possible, while the drones take overhead scene photos in order to clear the wreck off the roadway minimize the risk of a secondary crash.
The OPD provides four hours of driver training on a driving simulator.
Every Oxford Police Patrol vehicle is equipped with a GPS tracking system. This allows dispatch and supervisors to know where every patrol vehicle on duty is located. This program also tracks and maps patrol vehicles in their shift travel. OPD supervisors make sure patrol units are being active in the patrol zones, but also making sure they are staying safe and driving at appropriate speeds during their shifts. When a supervisor notices unacceptable driving behaviors, they interview the officer about him/her speeding through their patrol zone for no apparent reason or going to a call that does not require an expedited arrival. OPD does believes by holding their officers accountable and train them on the correct way to drive in order to ultimately save their life at some point or another in their career.
The OPD also has trainers certified by Below 100 and have trained all of their officers. The department uses the posters available from Below 100 to place throughout the agency at all entrance/exit doors to constantly remind members of officer safety. The department has also had members trained as instructors in critical areas of training in order to better control the quality of training their officers receive.
Anytime an Oxford Police Department vehicle is damaged or involved in a traffic crash, the officer driving the vehicle is to notify the on-duty supervisor immediately. The supervisor is required to go to every incident involving an Oxford Police vehicle. The supervisor is required to complete a traffic crash report unless in the event of a fatality or serious physical injury, then the traffic crash investigator will complete the report. The traffic crash report and a notice of incident form will be forwarded to the uniform captain, Chief Partridge, and then on to city hall to the safety director. The City of Oxford Accident Review board, comprised of various officials from the city government, will review each traffic crash to determine if the crash was at fault/avoidable. Any traffic crash is still reported and forwarded to the uniform captain and Chief make the decision regarding discipline.
Enforcement has more divorces, suicides, and substance abuse issues than any other profession according to recent studies. To aid in reducing these occurrences and help our officers to better deal with stressors to include job-induced and in their personal lives, OPD created a peer-to-peer support program inside the department. All discussions occurring during the peer-to-peer sessions are strictly confidential, however, mandatory reporting such as suicidal/ homicidal thoughts or illegal drug use will occur. These officers will be directed to a psychologist or psychiatrist by the city to seek immediate help. These officers will be granted an amnesty for illegal drug use and entered into a rehabilitation program to help the officer. If an officer is in need of critical intervention, he/she will be placed on paid administratively leave while they receive professional treatment. Once completed and the officer is cleared, they may return to duty.
As a part of critical incident debriefings, officers are also offered assistance by a licensed mental health counselor. OPD members have access to our department chaplain, who is a pastor at a local church, and a senior counselor with Restored Ministries. OPD understands that these two are religious counselors, but they also have access to a local counselor who specializes in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
In an effort to address an officer’s overall well-being, OPD recognizes that officers need to be in top physical condition. In an effort to maintain officers’ physical fitness and reduce their stress, we have an officer fitness center in the main building of the police department. The fitness center includes weights and cardio equipment. The first time an officer utilizes our fitness center, he/she must go through an orientation process and sign a liability waiver. We do not have mandated physical fitness standards for all department personnel; however, the Emergency Services Unit requires a physical fitness test be taken quarterly. Also, the Aviation Support Unit has a yearly physical to ensure they are fit for flying. All officers are strongly encouraged and recommended to utilize our fitness center before, after, and/or while on-duty as well as their off-duty time.
A morale booster for the department is recognizing those officers who go above and beyond the call of duty. OPD has a commendation award program. Department commendation awards are listed in their SOP that outlines the significance behind the award. These awards consist of a citation to be worn on the officer’s uniform and a written letter of commendation explaining the deed recognized. Not only are the officers recognized in a roll call setting in front of their peers, but it is posted to social media to allow the public to see the commendation award. This puts public trust in OPD officers, which helps morale because the city loves and supports their officers who go above and beyond.