Following up on Tuesday’s report about pandemic-related staffing, technology, and operational changes that may remain in place after the pandemic, PERF spoke with officials from four agencies about how their departments are transitioning to the “new normal.”


Kansas Bureau of Investigation Director Kirk Thompson

As a statewide police agency, we had many of the technology tools in place to communicate effectively across all our offices dispersed throughout the state. And our focus is not public-facing, so our support generally goes to the law enforcement community in our state. Our goal is to keep our state’s investigative support, CJIS system, and the forensic laboratory system up and available to our local partners.

So we were in a significantly different position than many agencies. It was not that difficult for us to put some additional end-user devices out there and have our folks begin working from home. Most of our people are dispersed and used to working in remote locations and remote offices.

Recruiting and retention are always at the top of our list of challenges. We found that our employees were really enjoying the flexibility in their scheduling and rising to the occasion. Even with the allocation of daily “wellness time” to our employees, we were seeing increased productivity with people working outside of the office.

Based on that experience, we see some advantages in keeping our flexibility in place. That may depend on the position. For example, employees in our forensic laboratory need access to the instruments and it’s a little more difficult there. But we considered having a hybrid schedule, with people on the bench in the laboratory four days a week and on the fifth day they could work at home to complete administrative tasks.

We had to rely upon our communications systems, which were already in place. We were not able to maintain communications as well as if we were in person, but we didn’t see any degradation in our ability to serve law enforcement customers.

So we see an advantage to leaving a lot of that in place. We are starting to bring some people back into the office on Monday. We see the next three months as a gradual move back to whatever this new state of normalcy will be for us. In many ways it has been good for us to reevaluate how we do business, and I think it will be beneficial to us.


Pasadena Chief John Perez

We’re now using Webex in our jail system for court appearances. It was relatively simple to set up with a camera system. We were one of the first agencies in the county to establish a Webex arrangement with the courthouse. We are pushing the state to maintain our ability to keep the digital arraignments going, because they’re a part of the pandemic that we shouldn’t let go.

It would be easy to say that when the pandemic is over, we should go back to regular arraignments and other regular operations. But we’ve been using Zoom to tutor kids and to have community meetings. We just had one with 250 residents last week. It’s not the best way to maintain relationships, but it is working once we have those established relationships.


Pasadena Commander Mark Goodman

We found technology was a game-changer for us, both for video arraignments and community engagement. It was a little difficult at first to make personal connections via Microsoft Teams or Zoom. But we found that our community members really like it. As people became more accustomed to technology, they found it really worked for them. They didn’t have to come to the police department or a centralized location for a community meeting. They could do it right from the comfort of their own homes while engaging with us.

At first we were limited to doing video conferencing and video chats. We have a very robust Police Activities League (PAL) program here in Pasadena that a lot of parents depend on for tutoring. We were able to use that technology to keep our people employed and working from home, and keep those kids on track with school.

We were also able to form a robust network of neighborhood watches. Our neighborhood watches actually grew during COVID.

As we start to move out of the pandemic period, we’re going to maintain this tech platform for community meetings. We found it was so much more efficient. We no longer had to send two or three officers to a community meeting, and sometimes we’d have community meetings where there were more cops there than community members. But we had a lot more community members at these online meetings.

We are slowly starting to bring people back to work. By the end of May, we will probably have the vast majority of our professional staff back here at work. The lack of personal interaction was a challenge, but we overcame that and eventually became very efficient in our use of online platforms.  


St. Petersburg Chief Anthony Holloway

We had been passing papers around throughout the department, but now we’re almost at a paperless system. We can do things electronically and have really reduced the flow of paperwork throughout the department.

We reduced our records division and lobby hours because of COVID, and now we’re going to keep those reduced hours. We had been open until midnight, but now we’re only open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m., and we have had no complaints from our citizens about those new hours.

We had to figure out how to do things remotely in a paperless system while our professional staff were working from home. We had to implement electronic signatures and an organized system for storing paperwork.

Officers here have to meet with the state attorney after they make a felony arrest. Now we’re doing all those via Zoom instead of in person. We’re talking to the state attorney’s office about whether we can continue this practice moving forward.

So we’ve seen huge efficiencies in reducing the flow of paperwork and reducing the hours in our lobby and records division.

Everybody is back into the station as of a month ago. It was difficult bringing everyone back because a lot of professional staff still felt uneasy coming back. So we made sure the building was regularly cleaned. A lot of people were used to working from home, but often we found it was difficult to get a hold of people. The turnaround time could be 10-30 minutes when you needed an answer right away.

We’re having officers come back into the station this week for roll call. We missed that personal contact each and every day.


Pittsburgh Commander Chris Ragland

Necessity brings changes, and when the pandemic hit we needed to change the way we were doing things. The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police had some technology issues, which included internet bandwidth, not having cameras, and not having laptops. So we had to adapt pretty quickly.

We’ve learned that we need to adapt. We stopped physically going to community meetings for a period of time, but the community always craves information and wants that sort of contact. We had to quickly adapt and hold those meetings in a different way, often over Zoom.

Internally we also recognized that we couldn’t hold meetings the way we used to. We adapted and used Microsoft Teams, which had a bit of a learning curve for a lot of our personnel.

We’ve brought back almost everyone who was working remotely. There are probably still a few working remotely. I think the personnel loved working remotely, but the issue for us is getting them the technology they need to be able to do so. We were not able to provide everyone with a laptop, so we had to distribute those to key personnel. I think if we were to upgrade our technology and provide a platform for working remotely, we would definitely go to a hybrid model.


The PERF Critical Issues Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting this work.