A management audit of the Salt Lake City Police Department is apparently unable to square poor morale among police officers with findings that Chief Ruben Ortega’s department is making progress and is relatively well run.
But the yet-to-become-public audit, obtained by City Weekly, warns that unless the chief and the labor union make peace the department and the community will continue to suffer from a police force that isn’t as good as it could be.
That news comes on the heels of a well-publicized flap between Ortega and Officer Jill Candland who just took up the reins of the local police union. Candland is suing the department for an alleged wrongful transfer from her long-standing position as a homicide detective. In response to the suit, the chief gave local newspapers protected disciplinary letters from Candland’s personnel file.
That interaction came one year after the rank and file of the Salt Lake City Police Association voted no confidence in Ortega.
The Salt Lake City Council is preparing to huddle with auditors from David M. Griffith & Associates who have prepared the draft management audit of the police department, City Weekly has learned. The independent study indicates that despite the fact the 80 percent of patrolmen have no confidence in the chief, the department’s policies and programs are, for the most part, successful.
A contradiction in terms? Maybe not. While line officers were dissatisfied, the public was generally pleased with the performance of officers who have handled their complaints and problems.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the audit says that the police department doesn’t have enough man power to do as much pro-active policing as it should meaning that officers are so busy answering complaints that they have time for little else.
At current authorized staffing levels and under current deployment practices, basic field patrol has little pro-active time not devoted to handling calls for service and other activities resulting from the call. As a result, full community oriented policing has not been extended to all portions of the patrol operation, the audit summary states.
This staffing and workload issue is probably a major contributor to mixed officer responses related to their view of the community oriented policing program É
What also may come as disappointing news to the line police officers is a recommendation by the audit to do away with take-home police cars and a 10-hour, four-day work week. The audit says that since most officers live outside the city limits, taking police cars home doesn’t increase police presence in the community. In addition, to make scheduling more efficient the department should return to an eight-hour, five-day week for its patrolmen.
The audit is expected to become public after the City Council and Police Department have an opportunity to review it and make comments.
Despite low moral and staffing problems, however, the public gives good marks to the police department, according to the audit’s executive summary. During the course of the project, we conducted a telephone survey of a sample of people from Salt Lake City who called for police service. (They) were highly positive with user satisfaction ratings well above those we have encountered in other studies involving communities the size of Salt Lake City.
But while residents are happy, many of Salt Lake City’s finest are not, the audit says. Somewhat surprisingly, the auditors can not square attitudes of officers with their findings.
It should be clearly understood that the survey documented staff perceptions, and in some areas negative perceptions by sworn staff are not supported by our findings É Given user satisfaction and our evaluation of current programs and operations, it is not clear that his disconnect in attitudes and opinions between management and a substantial portion of line sworn officers is having documentable impact on services which are being delivered to the city and its residents, the audit states.
Further, the consultants say that unless there is a concerted effort by both management and labor the impasse will not improve and the department’s efficiency will suffer.
Without a commitment from both sides to improve communications and put aside past disagreements and enmity, the situation will not change and we believe both management and staff time will be wasted on public and private conflict...