Canon City Plans Survey About Police Department

By: KKTV Email
By: KKTV Email
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Following the resignation of their police chief and questions about personnel issues within his department, Canon City is planning a community survey to gauge the community’s feelings about the department.

Chief Duane McNeill submitted his resignation on May 17, almost a full month after he was put on paid leave in response to a management audit that uncovered management and morale concerns in the police department.

Canon City Administrator Doug Dotson told the city council that plans are being developed to improve the department’s training, professional development, performance evaluations, internal communication and communication with the community. A community policing survey is also being planned to help the city council and city administration understand citizen impressions of the department’s performance.

When 11News first reported the audit on April 11, city officials said they requested the audit after questions arose about personnel and morale issues within the department. The audit was completed over four days by a consultant with the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.

The city said the purpose of the audit was not to evaluate personnel or their fitness to hold any position within the Canon City Police Department. Instead, the assessment was to show various ways to improve leadership, management, and overall daily administration by developing a “roadmap for success.”

Thirty-nine out of 50 employees who work at the department were interviewed during the audit. The majority showed an overwhelmingly negative response toward the police administration, specifically the police chief. The report showed that out of the 38 interviewed in person, plus the two who wrote letters, only six of them agreed with the management style of the department.

Some of the major concerns of employees include:

-Lack of trust, communication and teamwork
-Disjointed training programs
-High agency turnover rate
-Discrimination by the police chief instead of empowerment
-Alienated allied local agencies including the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office.

Some employees even went as far to say the department was a depressing place to work.

Other common criticisms included:

-No movement, plans, or goals for the department
-High turnover agency from a once low turnover agency
-No longer family oriented, no social events
-No motivation or formal department awards event
-Very low morale, depressing place to work
-Too many internal affairs investigations
-Retaliation against officers who litigate against the Chief
-Police department staff is very fearful of police administration

There were negative feelings towards elimination of certain programs or lack of programs:

-Elimination of Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
-Very disjointed training program (allegations that training was actually suspended due to a staffing shortage)
-No emergency vehicle operation course training
-No arrest control training for several years
-Irregular firearms training

The report did reveal some positive comments about the police chief:

-Chief holds employees accountable
-Chief treats everyone fairly
-Chief does a good job and is personable
-Chief is very passionate and this is sometimes confused with anger
-Chief leads from the front
-Chief is hard working, communicative, sincere, and wants to make changes

City officials say the chief will stay on paid leave until they can further review and analyze the results of the management audit. McNeill has been with the department since December 2009.

Some comments showed that there was a “pack mentality against the chief” and that a “group of five to 10 officers are a cancer in the Police Department” who are creating the problems.

Some of the reported negative comments about McNeill included:

-Created a “fearful environment”
-Chief alienated allied local agencies (Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, CSP, Florence PD)
-Writes hundreds of tickets for extremely minor offenses (riding bicycle on sidewalk, throwing cigarettes out of car, loud music, etc.)
-Works too much traffic in a manner not to support officers but show them up
-Engages in questionable search and seizure tactics
-Is unfair-conducts targeted internal affairs investigations against certain officers
-Does not empower sergeants to be supervisors-too much oversight
-Discriminates again light duty officers-treats them badly
-Engages in retaliation against officers he doesn’t like
-Condescending toward women both in the department and in enforcement contacts

The auditor concluded there were 15 issues affecting the police department. Some of the major issues include:

-Perception by majority that chief of police is ineffective (mainly due to perception of poor communication techniques, unfair/outdate internal affairs policies and poor/non-existent training program
-A lack of written direction for the police department from the City Council and City Manager’s officer to include a list of annual written goals
-A lack of positive formal celebration in the department
-Drastic reduction in department programs

The auditor believes the situation is salvageable but will take effort from the City Council, chief of police and officers.

He offered several suggestions including:

-Chief attend professional development programs
-Realigning the organization of the department
-Formalize positive department events in an effort to raise morale
-Develop an annual department training plan
-Take full advantage of free training

Auditor Paul Schultz finished his report by offering positive encouragement: “Officers need to be open minded to the fact that organizations can improve and perceptions can change. This will take effort on everyone’s part and constant positive reinforcement from the police administration that mistakes of the past will not be repeated-the goal is to work together for a better department and a better community.”

In a press release city officials released this statement:

“City Administration fully supports the efforts of the Police Department and its personnel. The City Council and Administration, through this action, are striving to resolve management and personnel issues and restore morale in the department. It is not know how long it will take to complete the investigation, but City officials are working to initiate the review within days.”

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