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Chapter III

Police department's management strategies come under fire in study

This is the third in a six-part series that delves into a performance and management review study of the Sunnyside Police Department, commissioned at a cost of about $50,000.

In reviewing chapter three of the Sunnyside Police Department study that was undertaken by Austin, Texas-based MGT of America, entitled "Organization and Management," it is recommended that both the deputy chief and school resource officer sergeant's positions be eliminated. In the same breath, the study points out that three new positions be added...two commanders and one community support sergeant.

The structural change, says MGT, "...reduces the number of direct reports to the deputy chief by splitting the position's supervisory responsibilities between two newly created commander positions while eliminating the deputy chief position."

Under this set-up, seven employees would report directly to the newly created commander of patrol and investigations. The newly created commander of operations would have five employees report to him or her.

Currently, the deputy police chief is handling as many as 16 employees reporting to him ...four patrol sergeants, the school resource officer sergeant, the detective sergeant, the support sergeant, the traffic safety analyst and the data entry specialist, as well as direct reports from the five hospital officers and two receptionists.

MGT officials said that during the interview process the deputy chief, himself (Phil Schenck), "...suggested that he was responsible for too many direct reports."

The study also points out that an additional benefit to such a reorganization, besides reducing the current number of reports to the deputy chief, would be the ability of a dedicated community support sergeant to engage in direct communication with the reserves, "...to ensure they are receiving a proper level of attention to help guarantee the successful rebuild of the dwindling program."

Untrained officers

One of the eight formal recommendations in chapter three of the study directs the police chief to ensure the department is adequately trained, at least to the requirements set forth by Washington state law.

Acknowledging that the cost of properly training officers may not be insignificant, MGT's consultants point out the cost of failing to train officers can be significant, "...when accounting for the potential for increased exposure to liability for the city, and the potential for harm on behalf of both the officer and the citizens served by the officer."

The report goes on to reveal that at the end of September last year, nearly half of the annual budget for training hadn't been spent, "...despite repeated statements from numerous officers regarding their inability to obtain needed training."

MGT officials said this was especially true for the newly created gang unit and detectives, "...who despite dealing with six homicides last year had never received anything more than on-the-job training for a homicide investigation.

"By failing to ensure adequate training, the department is risking the lives of its officers, Sunnyside citizens and the financial well-being of the city," the report continues.

Long-term plan?

MGT officials report that all police departments, to better protect and serve their communities, have to implement strategies. The goal in Sunnyside, as mentioned several times by city leaders to the consultants, is "...to make Sunnyside the safest city in the country.

"This is certainly an admirable and perhaps attainable goal. However, the Sunnyside Police Department does not have a long-term plan in support of that goal," they concluded.

The long-term plan, according to the authors of the study, needs to set priorities, articulate strategies and provide a clear indication of how success at achieving its goal will be measured. A long-term plan, too, would help demonstrate what the city is getting for its financial investment in the police department.

One of the plan's top priorities that should be spelled out is the department's current initiative to disrupt and reduce gang activities. MGT said the Sunnyside PD has already gone to great lengths in terms of defining such a strategy, but that "...it has not provided measures by which the success of the strategy can be measured, nor has it provided a timeline for the gang elimination strategy." By doing so, said the MGT consultants, city officials and citizens would be able to understand when the suppression leg of the strategy has come to pass and when the prevention and intervention operations would begin.

Specifically, the study recommends that the police chief prepare a long-term plan covering a five-year span, and that it be updated annually.

The report goes on to recommend the police chief insert performance measures and anticipated timelines for the gang elimination strategy. As introduced by the police department and approved by the city council, said MGT officials, the gang elimination plan "...provides no way by which the effects of the strategy can be measured."

The study also points out the deputy chief, in multiple conversations, reports that the gang elimination strategy relies heavily on suppression. But, said the MGT experts, "...the intensity at which the department is operating to achieve suppression cannot be sustained long-term.

"Instead, it is well accepted that intervention and prevention must also occur," they added.

Partnerships

In moving towards the areas of intervention and prevention, MGT recommends the police chief work diligently toward improving communications and partnerships with community organizations. The strategy currently in place, they point out, emphasizes the need to identify and nurture individuals within the community who are connected and willing to assist.

One such organization noted in the study is the Sunnyside's Promise group. MGT consultants said the police chief (Ed Radder) spoke of his work with the group, but despite his involvement and a mission that seems critical to the success of a gang elimination strategy, when the consultants spoke with Sunnyside's Promise staff members, its executive director "...reported a chilled relationship with the police department."

According to the study, the Sunnyside PD and the city should work toward 100 percent inclusion regarding community participation.

This part of the report concluded that discounting community groups that are in a position to directly impact the community's anti-gang efforts is counter-productive.

Administrative assistant

Concerns were voiced by city managers, PD staff and elected officials regarding the responsibilities of the police chief's administrative assistant (Charlotte Hinderlider). The concerns, say MGT consultants, stemmed from confusion about whether the administrative assistant was responsible for supervising uniformed officers, as well as acting as the PD's public information officer.

MGT said a review of her job classification description did not indicate any specific responsibility for supervising staff, "...and certainly not uniformed officers," nor any expressed responsibility to function as the public information officer. The consultants, added, however, there is language in her job description that could be broadly interpreted to imply such functions.

The recommendation by MGT is to rewrite the administrative assistant's job description to eliminate any confusion about her responsibilities. None of the suggested responsibilities for that position include supervising uniformed officers.

MGT also recommended that the police chief designate two sworn staff members to serve as the department's public information officers, and that they be provided training to effectively carry out those responsibilities.

1 Bob Story 2/17/2012 4:14 PM

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