(The following was taken from the Berkshire Eagle entitled Pittsfield Police Crime Analst Helped by Military Intelligence Background by Jim Therrien)
PITTSFIELD — With training in military intelligence, Amanda O'Connor thought there was little chance she'd find civilian employment matching that skill in her native Berkshire County.
But that changed for the 25-year-old Sheffield resident when the position of crime analyst was established last year in the Pittsfield Police Department. O'Connor was selected from among more than 50 applicants for the job and began work at the Allen Street police station just before New Year's Day.
"It was a dream come true," she said. "I get to do what I want to do and stay in the Berkshires at the same time."
O'Connor is a 2006 graduate of Mount Everett Regional High School and a 2010 graduate of Williams College.
While the job of crime analyst is new to the city, it is rapidly catching on in police departments across Massachusetts and in other states. In requesting funding for the new position, Chief Michael Wynn said he immediately suggested an analyst when asked what one change would have the greatest positive impact on his department.
O'Connor said she uses data and statistical analysis and computer skills to assist officers in the field, and the information also helps Wynn and other leaders in managing the force and developing effective crime-countering strategies. She also is working to broaden the PPD's electronic connections with other law enforcement entities.
To gain some background on the job, O'Connor said that before starting she and Wynn met with members of Massachusetts Association of Crime Analysts, who work in other police departments, institutions such as colleges and state agencies. "They are very supportive of each other," she said.
"When I started, I had a whole bunch of ideas," O'Connor said. "Chief Wynn and I sat down to arrange the priorities. The first thing I did was organize the [daily police] logs."
She said she wanted to organize the logs — which list the calls officers respond to in chronological order, a condensed version of which is published in The Eagle — in part to help her learn how the department operates. Almost immediately, she said, officers noticed her categorized call lists and began referring to them.
Right away, the categories were useful to officers, Wynn said. "And from a management point of view, that's gold," he said.
Her lists break down calls over a given time period into such categories as Alarm, Burglar; Disturbance; Domestic; Harassment; Homeless Assist; Motor Vehicle Stop; Smoke Odor; Assist Citizen; B&E Motor Vehicle; Assault; Serve Arrest Warrant; Sex Offender Registry; Well Being Checks, and Unwanted Suspect.
"But our main priority has been the Hot Sheet," O'Connor said.
The "sheet" is a modern version of the old shift change roll call briefing, usually delivered in TV cop shows by a gruff, no-nonsense sergeant, as in the landmark series, "Hill Street Blues."
Today, O'Connor is overseeing a transition from the current Word document format, which officers can read or print out and take with them on the road, to a PowerPoint-style presentation with color photos, maps, and arrest, prison release and "wanted" information. It also includes information about crime trends and locations, state or national news relating to street drugs, weapons encountered by police or other information.
The Hot Sheets are shown on a TV screen in a slide-show format, but will soon be available to officers in a continuously running loop, O'Connor said, and the goal is to make it available on computer consoles in police cruisers.
She and Wynn spoke about her job during a recent city Police Advisory Committee meeting. The chief said O'Connor quickly had an impact by noticing burglary trends that led to an arrest. By looking at the entire stream of report data from officers, "she can find commonalties," he said, such as a link between three shooting incidents in different areas that hadn't been recognized.
"A lot of people [at the department] don't have the time to look through the data bases," O'Connor said.
A software program the department hopes to acquire will add a GPS mapping component, she said, allowing her to easily plug data on types of crimes, accidents or other call details into a city map. "This lets us see what is actually happening," she said. "It shows the trends, such as in the accident reports, where we need to improve responses."
Police work is something O'Connor said she had always considered for a career. After graduating from Williams, she enlisted in the Army National Guard and spent two years on active duty, including training in military intelligence, and also learning Korean.
She had noticed on a Williams website that Wynn also graduated from the college, and she asked him about police work, eventually learning that the crime analyst position would be created.
"It's a job that has a whole bunch of aspects," O'Connor said, "and it will not be boring."
She added: "It's engaging, and I am doing something to help the community and people in general, which is something I've always wanted to do."
To reach Jim Therrien: firstname.lastname@example.org,
or (413) 496-6247
On Twitter: @BE_therrien