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Featured Citizen, June 2023

Sound Policy, Safe Town

Several years back, a map was found in the car of some gang members with a big red circle around OV and the words: “DON’T GO HERE”.

Oro Valley Police Chief Daniel Sharp, who recently retired in 2020, served OV for 20 years and helped our town earn its place as one of the safest communities in Arizona.

Chief Sharp brought a unique perspective to OVPD based on a citizen-first perspective and his five-point philosophy for best practices in policing.

A Two Decade Leader

After serving at Tucson PD for 21 years, Chief Sharp moved to Oro Valley in 2000.   He succeeded Chief Werner Wolff, the fifth officer hired in Oro Valley in 1983.  Today, OVPD has 106 officers on staff.

Featured Citizen June 2023. Danny Sharp, former Oro Valley Chief of Police.“Being a police chief for 20 years is pretty unheard of.  We fostered and succeeded in developing a partnership with the community.  It was a lot of hard work – not only for the men and women of the police department, but also the community volunteers.  It all came together.  I wouldn’t have done it for twenty years if it wasn’t making a difference or fulfilling.  It was a labor of love.”

Is OV One Big Speed Trap?

As every OV resident knows, OV has a bit of a reputation when it comes to traffic enforcement.  “The perception used to be zero tolerance with traffic when I took over.”

What most residents don’t know is that less than 20% of traffic stops end with a ticket.  The majority of stops just involve a warning.

This is part of a larger strategy that Chief Sharp helped implement called “high-visibility enforcement”. It’s a research-proven approach which aims to reinforce safe driving with regular, prominent traffic stops in central locations.  The main purpose is not to punish violators — it’s to keep drivers alert and aware on local roadways.

“We had two intersections with higher-than-normal crashes and injuries.  We went to the media and said that we would be at these intersections beforehand…. We told the public what we were doing…So, it was not a speeding trap.  If it caused people to pay more attention to their driving and be safer, than it was a success.”

Making Every Interaction Count

Chief Sharp notes that many citizens’ first contact with the police may be a 911 call, which is a very short interaction.  “But every traffic stop is a 90-second opportunity for public outreach.”

A father once called Chief Sharp: “I have to tell you about my daughter’s interaction with one of your officers.  She was pulled over, and she immediately called her mother.  She told the officer ‘I’m late and my mom is on the phone.’   The officer asked to speak to her mother, and said, ‘I’m sure what you will do to her is worse than what I can do with a traffic citation, so I will leave this to you.’  It had a huge impact on my daughter’s driving.”

“Nothing affects quality of life in a community more than traffic.  ‘A safe community is a healthy community.’  You can go on a walk, or jog in a safe community.  People take for granted that they can drive to the grocery store, the doctor, or a sporting event – there is an expectation that they will arrive there safely.  This is why we are so focused on traffic.”

In 2014, Chief Sharp was awarded the J. Stannard Baker Award for “outstanding lifetime contributions to highway safety”.  He recently received the 2021 Kevin E. Quinlan Award for Excellence in Traffic Safety.

A Citizen-First Philosophy

Chief Sharp has developed a five-point philosophy for better policing that places a great deal of emphasis on the citizen experience.

1. Service

“Government is a service organization:  you serve the people of the community.  The community members are stakeholders.  They are our bosses.  If I pull someone over and they say, ‘I pay your salary,’ I say, ‘you’re right.’”

Chief Sharp shares an anecdote about service: “In the middle of the summer heat, a K-9 unit from the Oro Valley Police Department was driving back to OV from animal care when he saw a woman with a flat tire.  He pulled over and helped her change her tire.  When he finished up, she said ‘I’m so glad that I live in OV.’”   It’s a great story, because they weren’t even in OV yet!

2. Accountability

“Accountability is about making sure that a level of service is provided.  If an officer is on a midnight shift, my expectation is that the officer is going to find that kicked-in door before the business owner.  This also includes holding the community accountable.  They are our eyes and ears.  After 9/11, there was the message, ‘if you see something, say something.’  I’ve always had that perspective.  The community should also get credit for it being a safe community.”

3. Problem-Solving

“People would much rather not be a victim of a crime than have police come quickly after a crime has been committed. ‘If it’s predictable, it’s preventable’” says Chief Sharp, a phrase he credits to Gordon Graham of the California Highway Patrol.

4. Neighborhood Focus

“When money was thrown at Community Policing there was a tendency to create specialized units to address specific problems in a siloed manner.  That is what I found when I arrived at OVPD.

“The senior officer responsible for formalizing Community Policing Programs in OV commented that I brought the insight to bring the programs into an overall Community Policing Philosophy, coupled with greater community stakeholders to avoid the pitfalls of siloed programs.

“I explained that Community Policing needs to be a community-wide philosophy that includes the entire police department with the stakeholders in the community.  Each neighborhood generally has a unique need where the police fit in to support the quality-of-life issues affecting the community.

“At the same time there needs to be coordination and exchange of information between the neighborhoods to address trends affecting quality-of-life issues in order to put prevention activities in place.  Since the police have responsibilities to serve all neighborhoods, they are the natural entity to oversee the coordination and communications.

“Sometimes it’s as simple as being highly visible in different neighborhoods at the unique times each neighborhood is likely to experience activities negatively affecting quality of life.”

5. Decentralization

The final tenet of his philosophy is that officers should be able to make neighborhood decisions without having to go up the line to command every time.

“If I am going to expect people to focus on a neighborhood, I have to give them the tools…The point of contact for service is at the neighborhood level.  If there is a potential problem, I want the neighborhood-oriented point of contact to be able to make the decision.  It can be made right there, and satisfy the needs of residents.”

A Reflective Leader

Chief Sharp is a graduate of the FBI Academy.   He also holds a Master’s in Educational Leadership, and served as an adjunct faculty member for Law Enforcement Programs at Pima Community College.  He is routinely asked to speak about public policy related to Community Policing and Ethics.

Chief Sharp taught an upper-division public administration course titled “Crime and Public Policy” at the University of Arizona. “I hired the punter for the football team, which didn’t make the coach very happy with me!”

Being an educator allowed Chief Sharp to “put into practice what I was teaching.”  For this and many other reasons, serving OV as Chief of Police was “a labor of love”.

Chief Sharp is the 2013 Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce Legacy Award recipient and was asked by three governors to serve on the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission.

 

 

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