UPDATE: Council approves Marion Police partnering with university researchers

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MARION, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- UPDATE: The Marion City Council Thursday night approved criminology researchers riding along with Marion Police officers.

A Marion patrol car at the station on Tuesday. A partnership with the University of Iowa will soon put criminology researchers out in the field with officers here.

The University of Iowa researchers will look at ways officers can do their job smarter and better.

Marion's police chief calls it "Intelligence Led Policing." It comes with a $50,000r contract.

Can university researchers come up with a better way for police to do their jobs?

That’s a question police department leaders in Marion hope to start answering as soon as next week.

A new partnership expected to be finalized by the Marion city council on Thursday will involve the police department and the University of Iowa’s Public Policy Center. It will place researchers out in the field with officers and also behind the scenes with investigators to study the trends in local crime in Marion.

Joe McHale, Marion’s Police Chief, calls it “Intelligence Led Policing.”

McHale says one of the first task for researchers will be to help the department come up with a “beat” system for officers—selecting when and where to patrol based on where crime is occurring.

“The first thing we want from the U of I is establishing beat structures based on data. Once we establish those we’ll produce daily crime bulletins, weekly crime reports…and provide visuals for the officers to look at where crime is occurring,” he said.

Chief McHale has a background in using data to fight crime. He participated in a national study while on the department in Kansas City on reducing gun violence with “Smart” policing techniques.

McHale hopes individual Marion officers look at researchers as a resource and not someone sent to second guess how they do the job.

Patrol officer Tom Daubs, the department’s new public information officer, thinks officers will keep an open mind.

“I can see initially where it might be a cause for concern. But the bigger pictures would dictate, hey this does make sense. In the grand scheme of things, this will work out,” he said.

Chief McHale says this six month partnership agreement with the city is also a first for university researchers in Iowa.

He thinks what they learn working closely with Marion PD could eventually benefit many departments.

The deal with the university is expected to cost the city of Marion $50,000.