“Wowing” Police Customers in Kalamazoo

Unknown-1[The following are key excerpts from Capt. Jim Mellary’s recent article on the COPS website, “The Factor of WOW in Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy: Promoting Public Trust and Confidence through WOW Service and Servant Guardianship.” It may be at first difficult to understand, but police need to consider citizens as “customers.” It is a very essential part of trust-building in our communities. Capt. Mallery was one of our speakers at the Midwest Conference on 21st Century Policing last month at the University of Wisconsin (Platteville) and presented many of these important concepts and ideas to a welcoming audience of police and community leaders.

[I continue to be reminded of a survey I ran across years ago: When customers are satisfied they may tell one other person; but when they are dissatisfied, they tell at least 10 other people!]

Four Pillars of Procedural Justice: Necessary Acts to Build Trust


Creating a Customer Service Culture

By Capt. Jim Mellary, Kalamazoo Dept. of Public Safety

“I participated in implementing the pillars of procedural justice and police legitimacy over the course of the past 10 years in each of the divisions I have been responsible for in my capacity as a captain for the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety (KDPS). As simplistic as it sounds, it is true: procedural justice and police legitimacy work. Treating everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of their lot in life, is paramount in our profession.

“After a traffic stop data analysis report was released with findings that Black motorists were more than twice as likely to be stopped as White drivers in Kalamazoo… it was readily apparent that we would need to focus on and implement two main principles or initiatives if we were to be successful in enhancing our relationship with the community that we serve.

  • We had to be firmly committed to creating a customer service culture. Our historical culture had swung too far into the enforcement arena.
  • We needed to accomplish this cultural transformation through initiatives grounded in procedural justice and police legitimacy.

“I held meetings with my immediate staff… we emphasize what our ‘why’ as the uniformed patrol division is—to serve. We identified one goal: Reducing crime by providing ‘WOW service’ while treating everyone with dignity and respect. [My note: Over 30 years ago, ‘meet and exceed the expectations of your customers’ was identified by Dr. W. Edwards Deming as the way for business people and manufacturers to keep a customer; that is was far more economical and profitable to keep a customer than to find a new one.]

“But make no mistake, our why is to serve. A key point needs to be stressed that our why—to serve—was not reserved for our external customers. As an organization, we needed to improve our internal procedural justice and legitimacy as well. And we made a conscious decision to improve service to our employees internally in the same capacity that we asked them to improve service with community members externally. This is one of the core elements of procedural justice.

“We cannot build trust with those we serve if we are seen as an occupying force controlling a geographical area. I have always felt that our profession should take on the guardian servant mindset, rather than one of a warrior. We need to demonstrate by our actions that we a part of the community, a part of the neighborhood, and that we truly care about those that live there. We needed to get back to face-to-face policing so that individual officers met with individual resident in non-enforcement contacts. If there is a bond of mutual trust, respect will be gained and legitimacy created.

The ‘How’ of ‘Wow’—Face-to-Face Policing

1. “Walk and talk canvassing. Operations Division sergeants began this initiative in March 2014, and it has been received so well internally that in January 2015 we added an officer to the mix.

“I select a geographical area within our city wherein we have a sergeant and an officer walk door-to-door for two blocks of a residential area meeting the residents face to face… We completed walking the entire residential area of our 25.11 square mile city in 15 months…

“It has allowed our officers to meet community members they would not have had the opportunity to otherwise meet as most do not have regular police interaction. It has demonstrated to the officers that there are outstanding individuals living on every block within our city who appreciate their efforts and our profession as a whole…

2. “Customer service follow-ups. Our sergeants are expected to follow up on calls for service that officers assigned to them have responded to. These follow-up contacts occur between 72 hours and two weeks after the original call for service was received—no later. This contact is to gauge the service that the officer provided the community member. Were they treated with dignity and respect by our staff?… Our main emphasis on why we were making the contact was asking the questions: Did we provide WOW service; did we go beyond their expectations; and were community members treated with dignity and respect?

3. “Door-to-door specific incident information. Incidents that draw more than normal attention within a residential area include multiple patrol units, lights and sirens, foot chases, physical arrests, incidents involving use of force, incidents involving community sensitivity…

“When something occurs that officers or command staff feel residents should be informed about first-hand from us, we engage in a door-to-door effort to inform people about what occurred. We send multiple officers or sergeants to go door to door meeting with the residents and explaining what occurred in their neighborhood. The feedback from our community members has been tremendous…

4. “Downtown mall meet and greets… We were motivated to find a way to provide WOW service to our business community in the same manner that we had to a neighborhood with the walk-and-talk initiative…

5. “Empowered to serve… This message has been reinforced to officers and command officers alike. They are empowered to serve. We trust their judgment. They will be supported. Our officers and command officers have far exceeded all of our initial expectations… Internally I have put the expectation to the command staff in the Operations Division to recognize and praise officers for their performance…

Conclusion: It works!

“Our profession needs to return to face-to-face policing. Our profession needs to re-commit to treating every single person, regardless of their lot in life, with dignity and respect. This is not a program, not a fad, not a temporary public relations gimmick. Our profession needs to better understand procedural justice and police legitimacy if we are to continue being one of the noblest professions that there is.”

Read the full article HERE.

To view stories from community members and officers, go to Downtown Kalamazoo Cops Facebook page.

For further information, contact Captain Jim Mallery at malleryj@kalamazoocity.org or by phone at 269-365-8391.


  1. I would like to see more cops like the Kalamazoo police force earn meritious medals for working with the community than getting awards for bravery. Nowadays, you see cops with all these police gallantry medals and police unit citations on their chests and it makes them too military. Having a meritious medal would drive home to cops that using one’s brain is more important instead of employing muscles and that you can reduce crime without always using force.


  2. I disagree with the customer service perspective in government generally, and specifically in policing. Governments do not have customers. Our governments derives their powers from the consent of the governed. In a free market economy customers choose where and from whom they procure goods and services. Citizens can and do vote with their feet, but they do not choose which government will provide their policing. We have an obligation to pursue justice, not because that would “wow” our customers, but because that is what government is all about. In Federalist No. 51 Madison said, “Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.”


    1. Perhaps we agree on the goal — justice, but how we define citizen/customer may vary. Needless to say, the term “customer” worked for us in Madison and lead offcers to see citizens in a much different way…


  3. I would somewhat agree with Mr. Bowman. If we don’t like our police department, it is not like we can say “I will change my police services to this department” or “I am terminating my agreement with this police department.” Basically, you and the police are stuck with each other like a marriage.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.