Newark’s new Chief of Police was born to serveMay 31, 2023 01:22PM ● By Tricia Hoadley
When it comes to law enforcement, Mark Farrall has pretty much done it all—from the SWAT team to Public Information Officer to Deputy City Manager to Newark Chief of Police. And all these jobs have different skill sets that display a complex understanding of how to discover, deter and/or rehabilitate those who violate the rules and norms of society. On the one hand, it’s pretty weighty stuff. But details are just as important as concepts.
For instance, Farrall explained how traffic accidents are just as significant as high- risk arrest warrants.
“There’s a lot of science involved,” he explained. “When an officer shows up at a crash scene and there are two or three mangled cars, witnesses, etc, it’s up to the investigating officer to kind of put the pieces back together, figure out what happened and whether there’s been a violation of the law. Our officers in the traffic unit go to collision reconstruction school, and that is a very intensive series of three, two-week classes with lots of math and physics. They learn the ins and outs of advanced collision investigation. When they complete that class, they receive a certification in collision reconstruction. That’s just one example of the specialized training that we get.”
For Farrall, who officially became the Chief of Police of the Newark Police Department on Feb. 1, service to the community has been a family thing for as long as he can remember. “My father was fire chief at Aetna for many years and has served with the fire department for decades,” he explained. “So, from a young age, I saw his involvement in the community. My brother had worked for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and retired several years ago…and I kind of followed in their footsteps.”
Farrall’s varied job descriptions, which could appear to be very disparate, actually were a natural progression of his accumulated skills on the job. He explained, “It wasn’t necessarily intentional. In the department, I was afforded a lot of opportunities with the promotions I had. What’s nice about our police department is that we’re small enough that everybody knows everybody and it feels like a family, but we’re large enough that we have a lot of opportunities available to our officers, which is one of the things that makes them more well-rounded.
“For example, if they go into the criminal division, they won’t stay in for the remainder of their careers. After five years, they’ll get transferred out of that unit and somebody else will be moved in. The idea is to transfer all their knowledge back from the criminal division to the patrol division. Then they can pass along what they learned to the officers on the patrol shift. That way, everybody becomes more well-rounded.”
This continuous switching of jobs in different divisions is one of the more important points of focus in the recruitment campaign, which is considered one of the most important aspects of the Newark Police Department. In fact, when asked about the department’s biggest challenge, Farrall’s answer was quick and decisive —recruitment.
“That’s our highest priority—recruiting new officers,” he said. “We are about 20 percent down in our staffing right now.”
That’s 15 positions from their authorized strength of 77 officers.
In order to address these personnel needs, the department has hired a company to come in and provide assistance in ramping up efforts to fill the necessary positions.
“We’re developing some high- quality video production to highlight the agency and its opportunities,” Farrall said.
The series of videos is available by clicking on https://joinnewarkpd.com/.
Farrall said, “Our agency is top-notch and we follow all the best practices in law-enforcement.”
The challenge is to get the word out to what is a limited pool of applicants. Currently, the number of people looking to get into the profession is limited, so there are incentives that help to increase the attractiveness of the jobs. Another motivating factor is instruction.
“We will train you,” the chief of police said. “We will also take officers that are certified. We have a few of them right now. Two are in training who were previous officers from Baltimore City. Another came from New York…also one who came from the Cecil County Sheriff’s Office. We will send them to a police academy, either the Delaware State Police or the New Castle County Police.”
Over the past few years, in communities large and small across the U.S., there has been what could be called an elephant in the room with respect to the public relationship with law enforcement. Farrall was more than happy to talk about that. As a matter of fact, he was eager, and even proud, to explain how the Newark Police Department has handled the situation.
“Despite all of the negative incidents and publicity for law enforcement, we in Newark, have not experienced that,” he said.
The reason? Policies and procedures are in place, along with rigorous background investigations conducted on potential applicants.
Farrall explained, “We hold our officers to such a high standard that when all the protests were happening around the summer of 2020, we had a number of protests in Newark, the people weren’t protesting our agency. They just wanted to have their voices heard on law enforcement in general, and they actually thanked us for the free speech.
“In fact, the police marched with the demonstrators to show their support and we allowed them to have their voices heard. And our community continues to support us because we have not seen those incidents or challenges in our community because of the caliber of officers that we have.” Farrall added that he couldn’t be more proud of how the officers handled themselves.
He explained, “We see these incidents around the country and what is so heartbreaking to me is we see the impact this anti-police sentiment is having on our officers. For me personally, it’s upsetting, knowing the character of our officers. What’s unfortunate is those incidents, although isolated, tend to paint the entire profession with a broad brush. But at the same time, we continue to hold ourselves to a high standard of professionalism.”
In fact, most of the things that folks were demanding were already being done by the Newark Police Department.
The Newark Police Department was the first agency in Delaware to implement a fair and impartial policing program, which developed into what is currently known as Implicit Bias Training. “That’s basically understanding bias can have an impact on what we perceive and on our actions,” Farrall said. “Our Implicit Bias Training developed into a partnership with the Anti- Defamation League, and they are hoping to use the program they developed with us as a national framework to teach law enforcement across the country.”
Another program that helps guide the moral structure of the department is called Active Bystander for Law Enforcement (ABLE). The point of focus here is that officers have a duty to intervene if they see a co-worker doing something inappropriate, such as improper use of force, etc.
“Our officers have a duty to intervene to stop that from happening,” he said. “It takes a lot of courage and our officers are well-trained to do that. We don’t have that kind of conduct often but it’s important to continually drive home the point of why that is so important.”
Farrall also touted the Crisis Intervention Training efforts which constitute a week-long program in partnership with NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. It’s a five-day course which is designed to recognize and assist those who are having mental health challenges. Some of the key points include how to talk to people and how to de-escalate situations.
“That is so critical because it’s such an important part of our job,” Farrall said. “A high percentage of the calls we get are people having mental health issues. We’re expanding that program. It’s a challenge. We’re getting as many officers into that program as we can.”
Farrall emphasized that although they are trained to deal with these tasks, they are not mental health clinicians.
He said, “Sometimes you’ll see unfortunate situations around the country where they are faced with situations that are really out of their wheelhouse, but there’s nobody else to call, so we feel it’s important that we train our officers as best we can to deal with these situations.”
As challenging as the mental health issues are, Farrall is optimistic about some of the current progress that is being made. “There are programs that are working, either through health agencies or law enforcement where they have people who are responders, who are not police, but who are well-trained in the mental health field.” Some of these programs are gaining momentum, just not on a national level yet.
“A sub-category of recruiting,” Farrall said, “is diversity, and the more diversity we have in our department, will lead us to better service to our community. So the more people we have with various backgrounds and cultures, the better lens that we will be able to view issues from. We look to continue to build on that.”
Farrall cited the close relationship with the Newark chapter of the NAACP, which is led by President Freeman Williams. “Our collaboration with them allows us to solicit their feedback on ways to improve our diversity within our agency,” Farrall said. “Their input is invaluable.”