Most police officers have experienced a sense of frustration working within a judicial system that often protects the guilty along with the innocent. And, in many cases, those convicted of crimes or awaiting trail, have more rights than a civilian who has never committed a crime.
With the recent advent of police- corrections partnerships throughout the country, it appears that the scales of justice are becoming more balanced. Most of these programs are new and evolving, but usually target-selected offenders who are on probation or parole and are considered high risk or believed to criminally active. They are designed to reduce crimes committed by probationers or parolees by detecting violations and intervening quickly.
The key to the success of these programs is the combining of police and probation or parole resources. For example, a probation officer can give a police officer who is patrolling a neighborhood, information on the conditions of an individual's probation. If those conditions are violated, the officer can then document the information back to the probation officer.
As gang- related crime continue to increase, another asset of the program is that police officers might not have the legal authority to prevent a gang member who is on probation from hanging out with other member of his gang. If a probation officer is with a police officer and sees this occur, he begins proceeding to revoke the gang member's probation.
A third benefit is the ability to share information that can help police officers in their investigations. It can also help probation and parole officers by giving them more information about individuals they are supervising.
Finally, probation officers may have the ability to convince reluctant probationers to cooperate with police officers in their investigations.
Enter Nightwatch, an innovative successful police probation partnership that has been in effect in Long Island in Nassau county, New York sing March 1998. The statistics for Operation Nightwatch clearly prove its success.
Measuring Success- A Fast Start
Since Nightwatch's inception until Aug. 30, 1999, the officers have made 1,095 visits. During this time, 309 probationers were home and 33 field interviews were conducted.
Seventy- four arrests were made for violations that ranged from drugs to weapons possessions. In addition to those arrests, 73 individuals were arrested on violation of parole warrants. One hundred and nineteen weapons were confiscated, including rifles, shotguns and handguns. An assortment of drugs, including cocaine and marijuana were also confiscated.
In September 1999, a home visit resulted in the seizing of $10,000 in cash, two pounds of marijuana and two ounces of cocaine.
Nightwatch is characterized by Inspector Anthony Rocco as "one of the most cost-effective methods of dealing with the common goal of making the streets safe for everybody. Prior to this program, out relationship with probation was either non-existent or peripheral and on an individual basis. It is now much more personal, much more working together."
According to George Thorsen, assistant director of probation in Nassau County, his agency, prior to the program, did most of their casework during the day. Now they have the ability to do evening home visits.
"We worked with the police department, but on a case basis. It was case driven. Now, we have a true partnership and work together on a daily basis. This operation has defined how we do business in this county."
Nightwatch is funded partially with a $20,000 grant from the New York State Attorney General's office and $16,000 yearly funding from the district attorney's office.
The programs began in the first precinct in the county and in the Village of Hempstead. It now has expanded to the entire county, including the police departments in the City of Glen Cove and the Villages of Rockville Center and Freeport.
In the first precinct, an unusual team of officers has worked together since the program began. Dennis Walsh spent three years as a New York City Police officer and nine years as a Nassau County officer. Roy Mangiamele spent five years in New York city and six years in Nassai county. Richard Nesdall spent the last 29 years as a Nassau County probation officer. They joke and smoke cigars together, but when it comes to working they perform as a precision team. Whether it is police work, or probation work, or the combination of both, they back each other up and instinctively know what the other person will do.