Friday, May 1, 2009

Lack of Respect "Ugly" and Must be Changed

Recently Middletown Township entered into an agreement with the Pennsylvania Governor’s Center for Local Government Services to conduct a management review of the Middletown Township Police Department. 

The basic reason for the review was to provide some assistance to the Board of Supervisors to improve the working relationship between it and the members of the police department. To get there, some of the chronic problems that are part of the current culture of the department needed to be identified and, ultimately, addressed.

The review was completed approximately a month ago and presented to the Board of Supervisors following its April 28, 2009 regular meeting.

The peer-to-peer consultant for the project was Richard F. Garipoli, who is a 33-year veteran of municipal law enforcement in Pennsylvania with a long list of credentials. In a pre-release discussion of the findings with Township Manager Raymond Stepnoski, acting Public Safety Director Patrick McGinty, and  chairman of the Board of Supervisors Chuck Thompson, Mr. Garipoli opened the review of the “Organization and Management Principles” section with the following statement:

“There is a lack of respect (for the current PSD). It is ugly and it needs to be changed.”

In his review, Mr. Garipoli pointed out that “someone must inspect the various people  and functions to confirm that duties are being performed and to insure that quality service is delivered. This responsibility falls upon the top executive of the department, which in this case [is] the new PSD, the lieutenants (command or mid-level managers), and sergeants (first line supervisors).”

Because of the “ugly” lack of respect being accorded PSD McGinty, the report said the “supervisors of the Middletown Township Police Department need to reinstitute this culture back to the officers. Officers should be respectful at all times.”

The emphasis is mine. The reason for this statement is that Mr. Garipoli states elsewhere in his report that he “was shown e-mails from officers to the township administration staffs that were inappropriate and unkind.” That is bureaucrat-speak for arrogant and outrageous.

Mr. Garipoli also reports that “During my visits I had opportunities to see numerous officers gathered for long periods of time and wondered why. When I asked, I was told they had nothing to do.” Standing around for long periods of time with nothing to do is not unusual for the Middletown PD. It is part of the culture PSD McGinty inherited and it is part of why overtime for the department has exploded – to the point where one officer was paid more than $160,000 last year. 

Additionally, Mr. Garipoli pointed out that:

  • “Arrests are not done in a timely manner. Lab reports indicate that arrest can be made; however, many cases are not followed up and prosecuted. … Officers must be held accountable for finishing their reports and arrests.”
  • “…Sergeants should watch how arrests are made and that the number of officers involved with a case is held to a minimum. …Somewhere in this process there should be a check by a supervisor to make sure that unnecessary witnesses are taken off the paperwork for courts.”

This second bullet point is what is driving the overtime to such extraordinary heights. In some cases, as many as five officers show up at a traffic stop and all “sign on” to the case. Each must then go to court and rack up the 6 hours of overtime this entails.

This report will go a long way in helping us solve the long-festering problems that plague our police department and will not only lead to better relations between the PD and BOS but will also create a much safer community.

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