“There must be a balance,” he said. “I think it has been tipped toward policing and the criminal justice system so far and that the other parts of rehabilitation, investment in communities and investment in people, in terms of trying to change their life conditions, that portion of the strategy had always been minimized.”
Although Isom’s position is temporary for now, he will be tasked with overseeing early efforts to fulfill some of Jones’ top campaign promises: Closing one of two city jails, improving city 911 service and reducing the homicide rate.
Isom said he plans to continue his focus on data in reviewing the police department’s operations. He said he also hopes to use his experience researching police shootings to make the department’s investigations into use of force more independent. He’s already worked to hire a few more 911 police dispatchers and said he supports combining city fire and police 911 centers to improve service. He hopes to support the mayor’s plans to integrate social services with police patrols.
He said Jones’ first step to cut $4 million from the police budget, about a 2.3% reduction coming mostly from vacant officer salaries, shows her shift in priorities, but won’t stop the city from fighting violent crime, as he hopes to make the department more efficient and focused on the most serious offenses.
“We’ve had an overemphasis on law enforcement as a solution,” Isom said. “I’ve talked about it throughout my tenure as police chief, that law enforcement is not the solution. The solution is investing in people, investing in communities, investing in families.”