Consultant Makes Recommendations To Improve the Framingham Police Department

FRAMINGHAM – Earlier this year, the City hired a consultant to evaluate the Framingham Police Department. The report was delayed twice, but was submitted on Monday, Dec. 3.

Today, Dec. 7, members of the union were presented with a copy of the 33-page report by Jennifer Flagg. It has also been submitted to the City Council for review, and is expected to be posted on the City’s web site later today. It was post after 3 p.m.

The consultant report cited the  changing nature and demographic of police.

“Almost half of the Officers in the Department have less than five years of experience and are young chronologically. If half of the workforce is of a different generation than the leadership, it can present challenges. The report makes a number of recommendations about how to adapt to the changing demographic,” stated the City in a media release on the consultant’s findings.

The report also states the City has a “challenge” “keeping good Officers in Framingham.

“The Department will likely lose some Officers to the state police, which occurs regularly in many cities and towns. Framingham will have to take those changes into consideration as it plans for the future. Pay is an area cited as a serious concern to many of the Officers,” stated a media release from the City.

Click here to read the entire 33 page report.

Below are the recommendations:

CITY LEADERS SHOULD WORK TOGETHER TO SUPPORT POLICE DEPARTMENT MISSION AND EMPLOYEES

While Framingham transitions, both operationally and philosophically, from a town to a city, decision makers should put the best interests of the mission of the Department and well being of its employees as their primary objective. City leaders should work to develop a coordinated, cooperative governing structure with definitive roles and responsibilities and the city council should take care not to use Departmental budgeting, policy and personnel decisions as a political tool.

City leaders cannot expect members of the Department to interact with the Administration in a collaborative, solution-oriented manner if they cannot demonstrate
that behavior themselves. Leadership starts at the top and best practices should be modeled at all levels of city government.

City leaders should publicly and consistently recognize the positive contributions that members of the Department deliver to the community. Accomplishments such as the recent audit report, promotions, new Officers sworn in, and efforts to protect and serve the community should be celebrated. Leaders should make an effort to serve as a conduit for the community to develop a positive feeling about their Department. Long-term, chronic lack of recognition has the potential to undermine the existing commitment to excellence in policing that the Department currently holds. Even only on the basis of costeffectiveness and crime rates, this demonstrated professional commitment if recognized and supported will have a major impact on maintaining the quality of life in Framingham.

In the next budget cycle, City leaders should set aside funding specifically earmarked for Officer wellness and support that does not decrease the overall police operating budget. An investment in the personnel will have a significant positive impact.

 

REVISIT PAY STRUCTURE
Almost universally, pay was a significant issue that Officers believe needs to be addressed in the Department. It is a widely held belief within the Department that an
Officer with less than 5 years on the job can transfer to another Department and make significantly more than the base pay of $48,529 – $56,863/year, and in often less stressful environments. Reliable comparative pay scales from other Massachusetts cities should be obtained directly from other Departments as a comparison and is a helpful data point for moving forward. Extra attention should be focused on comparison for population, demographics, heavy commercial presence, geography, types of calls for service and loss of benefits such as the Quinn bill.

Currently the Patrol Officers Union has been working with an expired contract since July 2016.

There are those who may point out that while the base pay for Officers may seem low that Officers can (and usually do) earn more by working overtime and details. While this is true, working extensive and prolonged hours of overtime does come at a cost to personal, physical and mental health, relationships with family and friends and overall well being.

Further, it should not be understated that policing is a job that involves putting one’s personal life at stake every shift and at the same time responsible for upholding the law and maintaining positive community relationships.

The personal cost is often significant for the individual and their families. This stress can lead to a decrease in optimism, motivation, and energy – which also is a cost to the community. City leaders should take this issue seriously and not see Police Officers as simply another bargaining unit in the City.

ESTABLISH AN OFFICER ADVISORY BOARD
In various ways, Officers universally report not feeling valued by the Department or leadership in the City. The Department should form a group of Officers that serve as an informal advisory group to make sure the Chief and the Administration is informed about organizational issues from their perspective.

Membership should be based, in part, from a peer nomination process and spots should be set aside for representation based on years of service (at least 1 with less than 5 years on the job,) women and minorities. Efforts should be made to include individuals who Officers see as leaders in the Department, so there is legitimacy and trust in the role of this group. No official member of the union or Attorney should serve on this group, as they already have a method of direct communication with the Administration. The intent of the group is to provide information to the Administration as part of decision-making processes and give feedback about organizational management but not as a participant in decision making unless otherwise determined by the Chief.

The Administration should use this opportunity as a method of communication with Officers that do not have regular contact with decision makers. The group should set aside an amount of time for “ask the Administration” or a way to enable Officers to have conversations to understand the philosophy behind decisions and goals moving forward.

The Department may want to consider including an outside facilitator to initially organize, set parameters and protocols and guide the meetings. Officer safety and wellness, including physical, mental health and job satisfaction should be one of the first issues that are addressed through this group. Specific items that are
identified, such as forces, should be assigned to a sub-committee to research and make recommendations for consideration. This could be done either in conjunction with a staffing evaluation or as a separate exercise. As noted previously, Officer wellness is one of the primary focuses of the 21st Century Policing report, “The bulletproof cop does not exist. The Officers who protect us must also be protected. Their wellness and safety are crucial for them, their colleagues, and
their agencies as well as the well-being of the communities they serve.”

Wellness should not be defined as what observers define it is, as much as their intentions may be good, but rather what sworn members of the Department determine. Often the “small things” matter, what may seem inconsequential to Leadership may contribute significantly to the improvement of job satisfaction and quality of life for a Patrol Officer. The Administration should strive to be responsive to requests that do not compromise the mission of the Department. For example, recently “no shave November” was instituted after requests from Officers and that was a positive step toward responsiveness. The Advisory Group should have opportunities to respectfully request and discuss “quality of life” issues such as this in addition to more significant issues that relate to safety and health.

Sub-committees should seek issue area expertise support from outside the committee when appropriate. Articulated, instructive and clear feedback about the recommendations should be given back to the Advisory Group from the Administration, creating a respectful and useful cycle of communication.

ESTABLISH PROFESSIONAL GOAL SETTING
Too often there is a belief that performance evaluations in law enforcement are a substitution for punishment, retaliation or personal retribution. Performance evaluations should be used as the basis for education and training, and a way to communicate with employees what that individual’s goals for improvement should be in the future, not a tool for discipline either formal or informal.

The formal process of performance evaluations has gotten caught up in labor relations disputes and often does not achieve its intended objectives. If establishing performance evaluations do not have the likelihood of success, a different system that establishes individualized goal setting should be explored.

Efforts should be made to consider what Officers’ professional goals are and plans including optional training and mentoring should be considered. The  Administration and Supervisors should be clear with staff about expectations for success and efforts should be made to ensure that expectations are the same across shifts or personnel changes. All involved parties should understand what the goals and expectations are, and a process should be put in place to ensure the staff member receives feedback.

ESTABLISH AND COMMUNICATE CLEAR PROCESS AND CRITERIA FOR SPECIALTY ASSIGNMENTS

A clear, concise process should be established and communicated to the Department about job openings for Officers. A standard should be set to establish a minimum amount of time jobs should be posted, a method of communicating criteria and expectations for applicants, the process for applicants, a method of obtaining feedback after the process, and a department-wide announcement of who got the assignment. In particular, an expectation should be set for individuals about the Administration’s philosophy of assignments based on seniority, merit and or skill level, and what weights or factor each of these categories will hold. Each process does not have to be the same, but job openings, an explanation of the process and criteria for selection should be announced and posted.

The selection process could include the option for a letter of recommendation from a Superior Officer, but not necessarily their immediate Supervisor. The letter should include specific reasons why the candidate should get the job and recognition of strengths they could bring to the position that might not be readily apparent to the appointing authority.

It is clear that the Chief has the absolute right to assign Officers, however, it would be helpful to increase the level of trust if staff had a more clear understanding of the philosophy, process, and criteria.

Currently, the perception is that decisions about specialty assignments are not consistent and without a discernible process or criteria. Addressing these beliefs through consistent processes and using good communication practices should work to increase the level of trust throughout the Department.

COMMUNICATE EXPECTATIONS FOR BEHAVIOR & DISCIPLINE CRITERIA

Most members of law enforcement are frustrated that the traditional system of discipline does not provide fair and consistent feedback in Departments. The process of grievances, the involvement of arbitrators and lawyers, and the baggage of past injustice often produces a profound mistrust in the system. While there is very little that can be done to change the grievance/arbitration system, clarifying expectations for behavior in the Department would be a positive step toward establishing confidence. A change in Administration is an opportunity to clarify expectations for staff members and there are many examples of progressive systems of discipline that could be used as appropriate for Framingham.

ENSURE ADEQUATE STAFFING LEVELS
Almost universally there is agreement that staffing levels are too low to achieve the mission of the Department, specifically in patrol. Inadequate staffing will have far-reaching consequences including Officer safety, inability to conduct proactive or community policing, and poor service to the community. For example, on the evening shift, which is also the busiest, there is regularly 6 or 7 Officers on patrol in the City.

Click here to read more about staffing.

 

EVALUATE DEPARTMENT ORGANIZATION ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES

Factually, the Department is a major city police department – one of only 38 Departments in the state that have at least 75 sworn members on staff. To some extent, the Department, like the City still operates as an informal small town. While it is undergoing an evolution to operate and more importantly see itself philosophically as a city, there is a need for continuous evaluation and improvement.

A complete evaluation of management responsibilities and administrative functions should be conducted within the next 6 months. The evaluation should include a needs assessment of sworn and civilian functions. It is likely that there are unmet needs, as well as functions that could be outsourced, civilianized or consolidated. Further, there should be an evaluation based on job and responsibility conducted to match needs and capacity with jobs. Consideration should be given for administrative support for Leadership, particularly with regard to building out internal communications practices, building trust through informal leadership, improving the amount and type of information communicated to residents and stakeholders and strengthening community relationships.

Review of rank structure should be considered, as it is not an industry standard to have a similar number of Lieutenants and Sergeants in a Department. Further, the goals, directives and objectives for each shift appear to be not consistent across shifts or even from day to day.

All areas for review should be identified and a thorough analysis of both need and capacity should be conducted.

RECOGNIZE WHEN STAFF DO SOMETHING IN SUPPORT OF THE DEPARTMENT’S CORE VALUES

Often in law enforcement, and in other public agencies, the only time employees get attention from those in Leadership is when they make a mistake. There are many opportunities to provide positive recognition for actions that deserve praise – the overhaul and total turnaround of the evidence and property room for example. Public praise is often appropriate, certainly when it is a counter-narrative to balance negative information residents have read in the media. Informal praise that reinforces model behavior is also a strong tool that should be utilized often by Leadership. “Calling out” a particularly good arrest or proactive police work in roll call is something that should be embraced. In addition, the Administration could consider a peer-nominated employee recognition program that has a tangible and visible way of communicating who the recipient is and what was done.

IMPROVE COMMUNICATION WITH THE PUBLIC
Again, the progression from a town operational philosophy to a city managed and operated philosophy applies to communications too. The Mayor recently hired a
professional Public Information Officer and with her support, the expectation is that communication with the public about Police Department activities and messaging will improve. The Department should seek guidance about ways to professionalize and improve both their methods of communication and messaging. With over 11,000 Facebook followers, there is a clear interest from the community to be informed and advised. The Department may want to seek advice from sister Policing Agencies about best practices – the Cambridge Police Department and Boston Police Departments are good models. While social media is an important tool, is it one small aspect of communication and should not be the benchmark for good communication. The Department should seek professional guidance if necessary to maximize their effectiveness.

Common in urban policing today, there remain numerous people working or living among us who feel they do not have good relationships with the police, often based on their experiences with other police agencies in places they previously lived or because of their immigration status. In community after community, tensions between police and minority communities have resulted in violence after police have taken aggressive actions as part of an arrest or in response to a neighborhood conflict. With the widespread use of cameras and video on cellular telephones, policing actions today are often highly visible and many communities have expressed concerns about what they see on social media. This tends to further inflame the relationship between minority communities and others against the police. While these issues are not common in Framingham there should be an effort to strengthen stakeholder relationships before there is an issue.

To strengthen the trust that Police have with residents, Department leadership should make every effort to personally connect with the community. The Department of Justice has numerous resources and guidance about Police and particularly Leadership to be accessible and have one-on-one opportunities for conversation in the community.

“It is important for the police to be visible in their communities and know their residents. Many people do not interact with the police outside of enforcement contexts. This can result in people developing negative associations with the police – for example, if the only contact they have ever had with police consisted of receiving a traffic citation or calling the police to report being the victim of a crime. Finding opportunities to interact with community members in a non-enforcement context helps to reduce bias on the part of community members and police officers. Getting to know community residents helps both groups to break down personal barriers and overcome stereotypes…personal interactions between police officers and community members build mutual trust, which is essential to
addressing neighborhood problems and reducing crime.”

To increase trust, not only should Department Leadership have more informal interactions with individuals inside the Department, but they should also increase the
amount of time they spend outside the Department and interacting with members of the community.

CONSIDER A MECHANISM FOR COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT AND TO MEASURE COMMUNITY SUPPORT

Given the number of residents who wanted to contribute to this project and that the City doesn’t have data from the community, the City may want to consider expanding its outreach efforts beyond traditional community meetings around neighborhood issues.

In many communities’ residents do not have a reasonable understanding of policing as most of their information about law enforcement is negative press. The “coffee with a cop” model that the Department already uses for informal conversations in low-stress environments is a positive model and could be expanded to take place in neighborhoods or at events. Other informal methods of outreach should be explored and initiated.

The recently created Police Advisory Committee should be used to strengthen the understanding the Department has for issues that residents are concerned about, and as an opportunity for the Department to create public support.

THE CITY SHOULD WORK WITH HUMAN SERVICE PROVIDERS TO DEVELOP A COMPREHENSIVE STRATEGY TO TURN THE DOWNTOWN AREA INTO A WELCOMING & SAFE AREA FOR VISITORS AND RESIDENTS

Homelessness, vagrancy, and individuals with substance abuse or mental health disorders are issues that cities across the country are wrestling with. The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) recently issued a report advising law enforcement about tactics and trends when determining plans to reduce issues around homelessness. Too often homelessness, vagrancy, and individuals with substance abuse or mental health disorders congregating  in public places become a law enforcement problem because of the perception and/or reality of unsafe public spaces.

City leadership should understand that it is not possible to “arrest your way out of” or sufficiently displace these suffering people and therefore it is inappropriate and not practical to turn to the Police to solve it. The city should conduct an inventory of human services agencies and services in the city and “map” locations where
individuals seek treatment or support. An analysis should be given to the advantages and disadvantages of clustering services in commercial areas and the consequences of placing benches and planters in areas where there is chronic loitering.

In many cities that are confronted by these issues, public and private entities partner to create a city-wide task force that does not focus on enforcement as the primary method of engagement with these individuals. The city of Cambridge has instituted a comprehensive program for addressing homelessness that could be replicated,

IMPROVE COMMUNICATIONS WITHIN THE DEPARTMENT

Overwhelmingly, individuals expressed an interest in wanting more information from the Administration about how and why decisions are made. The Department should do an internal review of all the areas where communication is necessary and appropriate and establish communication protocols for each item. In addition, the Department should work with the Officers Advisory Group to determine in what other areas staff would like more communication, but is not essential to the mission and discuss how to best achieve this goal. Individuals should be mindful that there are parameters for disclosure of personnel issues and other matters that should be respected.

 

INTERNALLY AUDIT AND EVALUATE TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES & PROCESS

Many Officers report wanting increased access to training opportunities, so they can be more proficient in their daily activities and possibly increase the possibility of access to specialty assignments. According to Officers, there is not a clear process or procedure for Officers to attend training other than the state-mandated in-service training that takes place once a year. Officers report researching training opportunities on their own and requesting time off to attend specialized training outside the Department and in some cases offering to pay themselves. They state it is unclear to them what the process or criteria are for approval. An evaluation of the amount of training has been requested in a particular time frame and the % of those that were granted might be instructive for individuals. The Administration should review the process for training requests and establish internal best practices for approvals.

CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS

The traditional dynamic of the Chief and City leadership with outside counsel negotiating “against” Officers often contributes to the mistrust that staff have for the Administration. City leadership should consider a nonconventional model for negotiations such as the “Interest Based Strategies” negotiation model created at the Harvard Negotiation Project at Harvard University.

This model urges negotiators to abandon the traditional philosophy of “have to get something for it.” Many public organizations are transitioning to this new form of contract development which focuses on collaborative problem solving instead of entrenched adversarial “us vs. them.”

PROVIDE SENIOR LEADERS WITH MENTORING AND LEADERSHIP TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES

Traditionally, Police Departments have been led by Chiefs with an “authoritarian” or “autocratic” style of management, with a strict chain of command structure similar to how military organizations operate. Over time, and particularly at Departments with younger staff, more informal engagement with members of the Department is becoming accepted as a necessary part of ensuring that the culture is positive and in keeping with the values of that Department. Some Chiefs refer to this style as “walking around leadership.”

“It would mean a lot if the Chief asked about our families or how we’re doing…showed an interest in us as people.”

Certainly, the most senior executive in an organization with a $14 million dollar budget, a mission critical to the health and safety of an entire city and over 100 employees has significant and essential administrative responsibilities. The Chief also has responsibilities that transcend administrative functions and individual personality. An obligation of the Chief is to also develop internal capabilities, provide training and leadership models for the next generation.

Members of the Department express admiration and desire for leaders with attributes such as integrity, consistency, high expectations for themselves and others regardless of rank, a teacher focused on improvement not discipline, and someone who cares about the well being of each member of the Department.

It should be noted, however, that the development of strong leadership must involve more than simply sending officers to management and leadership training. Internal mentoring of upcoming potential leaders must go beyond just attendance at management schools with the Chief Executive leading that mentoring effort.

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: editor@FraminghamSource.com Phone: 508-315-7176

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