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Marion police partners with Public Policy Center
by Nancy Grindle Correspondent · August 24th, 2017

At its regular meeting on August 17, 2017, the Marion City Council voted unanimously to forge a six-month research partnership between the City and the University of Iowa Public Policy Center.

The Public Policy Center (PPC) works with policy-makers at all levels - local, state, national and international. It provides academic research in a number of areas, one of which is crime and justice. Others are environment, health, politics and policy, social and education policy, and transportation and vehicle safety.

Peter Damiano, Director of the PPC, was on hand with Police Chief Joseph McHale at Tuesday's work session. At Thursday's council meeting, Dr. Mark Berg, associate professor, who will head the research for the police department, spoke briefly. Berg will oversee data collection, and research design and analyses, as well as working with McHale to share the research findings.

Ethan Rogers, research coordinator for the Crime and Justice Policy Research Program, was also introduced. Rogers will be involved with project design and implementation as well as data management, analyses and the drafting of technical reports.

Other members of the PPC staff include Mark Pooley, a research associate who provides spatial analysis and mapping. He handles large datasets of sensitive information and has worked with two Iowa health/dental networks. Specifically he will do GIS (Geographic Information System) analysis, web scraping, and data visualizations.

Alex Sukalski will provide IT support to the PPC staff throughout the project and will assist in data storage, collection and security.

The contract for the research partnership is $50,550.09 for the six-month period.

Chief McHale said that this is the first time the University of Iowa has ever partnered with a municipal law enforcement agency, and the first time the Marion Police Department has partnered with an institution of higher learning to create more progressive policing strategies. He hopes one of the major results will be better community dialogue.

McHale said this will not only provide data about areas of crime; it will also help him to know where to place officers and will help build intelligence within the department. The PPC will provide data but will NOT tell the Marion PD what decisions to make. That will be left to McHale and his staff so they can more effectively apply the resources they have.

McHale also noted the city is getting a lot back for the investment. He did something similar in Kansas City, and found it to be very effective. Afterward, there were opportunities for further collaboration, which also helped the department.

As Marion is growing, McHale feels it is essential the Police Department stay up-to-date and able to deal with whatever it will need to confront in the future. This is one way he hopes to accomplish that.
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