Friday, August 12, 2005

The Chief speaks concerning the Police Department and its facilities

This is a letter dated February 28, 2005 that has been presented to Council at the recent August 9 meeting to be entered into the official Village record.  It addresses many issues that have been spoken about on the Discussion Board.  It is very long, but read it all as it is very in depth about the Police Department’s needs.  (Assume all typographical errors are on the part of my scanner and textreading software.  I’m not proofreading this one again.)

To: Mayor Starkey, Council & Fiscal Officer

Re: Issues concerning the Windham Police Department

This is a follow up letter to the one that was written on September 04,2002 and given to the Mayor and Council members at that time. Many of the problems still exist, though some have been rectified.

I. Building and Facility

A. Site

As stated previously, the current Police Department building was built over 60 years ago, and was not designed to be a Police Station. The garage area has numerous places in the ceiling which has leaked so often, that the drywall has rotten and fallen down. A storage room inside the garage, which could be used for additional storage space is still full of unused/unwanted fire department equipment. The garage still holds the street department dump truck, snowplow, and other items. The room which houses the radio base is also used for office supply storage and personnel files. The office of Chief of Police has to be shared with the entire department. Additional evidence must be stored here when it will not fit into the evidence lockers, or is even too large to be placed in the evidence room. The door to the evidence room is located in this office, which is a problem when the office has to be used for interviews and interrogations. The officers' room, located outside of the dispatch area, is not suitable for interviews as it is too crowed and lacks privacy. It also houses the BAC (Breathalyzer) machine, as well as ammunition storage and the departmental "library". Neither room has any ventilation. The Dispatcher area is open and visible to persons who are inside of the department. These "persons" can be prisoners or suspects, victims, witnesses, and unless they are in the capacity of Law Enforcement persons conducting business, are not to have access to the LEADS terminal.

This includes printouts and reports that may be lying on the counter of the office. More often than not, they are simply Village employees who walk through the office. Again, recently, Administration employees have walked into the department while a juvenile prisoner was handcuffed to the bench. Will it take an invasion of privacy lawsuit against the Village and those responsible before this problem is attended to?

B,) Safety and Security

The lobby of the Police Department is an area of about six feet by seven feet. A small desk with two chairs is located there for individuals coming in to sit and write statements. Any more than three (3) people in it and it are overcrowded. The interior door is magnetically sealed and has to be opened by the dispatcher. Many times while persons are in the lobby other persons (village employees clocking in/out, other complainants, or suspects) walk in interrupting the victim/complainant. Many times these persons cannot be brought into the department due to a prisoner being shackled to the holding bench, other victim/complainants, juvenile suspects or victims who are being attended to, or simply other circumstances beyond the Officers' control.

The booking area is located in the hallway, outside of the Chiefs' office. It is also directly behind the Council Room. This area is a large Safety and Security problem especially when there is a council meeting or court is being held and a prisoner is being booked in. The hallway is also where the officers and dispatchers "locker room" is located. The "men's" restroom is located on the far end of the Council room. This restroom is in even worse condition than the front restroom. There is no heat or ventilation in either. This makes it extremely hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Recently a thermometer was placed in the back bathroom and recorded a temperature of 35 degrees. Several times this winter, the pipes have frozen. The distance the water travels from the hot water tank means there is no hot water. The bathroom is shared with prisoners, whom while being held before being transferred to jail, need to use a bathroom. Many of these persons, male and female, are known to have communicable diseases. The Dispatch area is located within sight of the holding bench. The dispatchers are often forced to listen to the prisoners' comments as they are being processed. This is a safety hazard for the dispatcher, as their work area offers no protection if the prisoner became violent. It is especially a problem if the prisoner is disruptive and yelling, making it difficult for the dispatcher listening to and talking on the numerous radios and telephones as well as the aforementioned LEADS security issues.

The man door entrance to/from the garage previously had a numeric combination lock. The lock broke around 1999, and was "too costly" to repair. The door now has a key inserted into the lock all the time, which means anyone who could gain access to the garage could walk right in to the Police Station.

There is minimal security in the hallway to the Administrative Offices. The time clock is located in this hallway, which is part of the problem with the employees entering the police lobby. The hallway is also the access to the "ladies" restroom. This is actually a "unisex" restroom, as the Department does now have male dispatchers.

The garage has no ventilation. It is extremely humid during the summer months and cold in the winter. As previously noted, several parts of the ceiling are falling in.

The area in front of the garage doors is unsuited for the exit of police and emergency vehicles. This is a safety hazard and a liability issue for the Village. The area on the north side of East Center Street should be "no parking" in front of the Police and Administration building. With vehicles parking in front of the building, a large "blind spot" is created and on countless occasions cruisers have narrowly missed collisions with vehicles traveling on Center Street. The book drop-off is also in the way of a driver's view when pulling out, and many times, vehicles pull in front of the garage door to drop off books, creating delays and hazards. Also, persons parking in the area on the western side of the building must cross in front of the garage door to get to or from the building. There have also been times when these pedestrians have almost been struck by a cruiser backing out of the garage.

The parking area is not monitored, and on several occasions employees have had their personal vehicles vandalized, or attempts were made on them. The most recent damage done to a vehicle was several months ago when unknown persons poured about a gallon of water into the gas tank of an Officer, whose car was parked in the parking area. There have also been accidents involving vehicles leaving the parking spaces due to the library and day care traffic coming through the parking lot. At night the area is dimly lit and evenings when there may be an event at the Community Center, departmental personnel are forced to park farther from the station than normal.

The Evidence Room is basically a non-ventilated closet in the Chiefs' Office. The Department takes in a large proportional amount of evidence and property, and storage space is at a high commodity. The Department is required to hold evidence until it is to be released or destroyed by a court order. The ceiling has leaked in the past and damage has been caused to evidence in it. The integrity of the evidence is lost and the Village and the Department can be financially held liable if the property is returned from our custody damaged. There are many occasions when an Officer is forced to work alone. The issues of only one officer working is not only a major concern of the Officer, but also an extreme safety issue. Many times a lone officer must deal with a situation were two or more officers are needed. If this lone Officer arrests an individual and transports them to the county jail, there is no Officer to continue patrolling the Village. If another emergency call comes in while the Officer is in transport, assistance has to be called from the Sheriffs Office or Garrettsville Police. If they are available, they could be many minutes away. This is an eternity when a dangerous situation is impending.

C.) Health

The Police Department building has been described as a "sick building". Many of the employees have developed illnesses while working here. A lack of proper ventilation, inadequate heating and cooling systems, and non-ergonomic Workstations are only a few of the problems. Due to the buildings age, it can only be assumed that it contains lead-based paint and asbestos. The officers and dispatchers must perform the general cleaning, maintenance, and upkeep. Citizens have noted that the officers should be out patrolling the streets instead of mopping the floors or taking out the trash. On a rare occasion, a community service worker may come in to serve their time and can perform these tasks. However, these individuals are persons who have been convicted of various criminal offenses. This requires that an officer stand by, as it would not be safe to leave them with an untrained and unarmed dispatcher. Again, there is the dilemma of what to do with them when a victim, prisoner or a juvenile is brought in to the station. The restroom in the front hallway has caused emotional problems. New employees arrive and find the condition of the facilities appalling. This continues with the new Administration employees. The bathroom has been in this condition since the remodeling in 1985, and is not a pretty site.

Positive changes since 2002;

1. The room across from the Chiefs' office was torn down.

2. An auction was held to dispose of unneeded items.

3. The garage roof was patched.

4. An air conditioner was replaced in the dispatcher area.

5. Storage shelves for reports and files built in garage.

Negative changes since 2002;

1. OSHA was in the building around November of 2003. Numerous violations were cited, but have not been corrected.

2. The Health Department was in to inspect the building in the spring of 2004. They made lists of recommendations.

3. The roof, though patched, continued to leak in some areas.

4. The items removed from the room that which torn down, are now piled up in front of the men's room and, are full of mold and mildew.

5. Sergeant moved office to garage area, with no phone or computer access.

6. Batiste's inspection was done in the Fall of '04, yet there is no copy of the report issued to the Police Chief or Department.

II. Personnel/Officers and Dispatchers

A. Dispatchers-Deputy Clerks

There is a high turnover rate for this position. The Department currently employs' two full-time dispatchers and eight part-time dispatchers. Within the last 5 years this department has lost no less than 20 part-time dispatchers for various reasons (see attached list). Often cited is a lack of opportunity in obtaining a full-time position. More often than not though, is the excessive workload. At any given moment the dispatcher may: have a phone call for the Fire Department, then talk with the FD over the radio, a Squad/ Ambulance call for someone sick or in an accident, coordinate with Life Flight have a person in the lobby who needs assistance, have Police Officers on a call that could be anything from a traffic stop to violent domestic, and answer one or more of the regular phone lines. All of this may, AND HAVE happened at the same time. The dispatchers are also Clerks of the Court and are responsible for taking of ticket and Bond moneys. They must type and clerk criminal charges, file reports, and other tasks in addition to answering the phones and radios. All of this for less than most agencies pay their employees for merely handling police or fire calls. They are expected to work nights, weekends, and holidays with no pay differential. They may also be called in on very short notice due to a call-off. Also, the LEADS terminal allows access to sensitive information and the operator must have had a thorough background check. This means that not everyone can fill this position. Due to personnel shortages in this position, some Officers have had to fill in this position. Because Officers can not be Clerks, they cannot take bonds or clerk charges. This has caused undo hardships not only on this department, but the Highway Patrol, which uses our Police Station for bonding, and citizens who merely wish to pay their traffic citation.

B. Police Officers

Currently, a person applying for a position as a police officer with the Windham Police Department must have already completed a police academy. At the present time, tuition for an academy class ranges from between $2,400 and $2,800. While attending an academy, a student is expected to provide his or her own sidearm. This can range in cost from $400 to $800. They must also provide a duty belt, holster, magazine pouches, handcuffs, and other various items for their "duty rig". If the Windham Police Department hires the individual they are also expected to provide themselves with a basic uniform to start as a Reserve Officer. For the basic set consisting of a shirt, trousers, shoes or boots, it will cost between $200 and $300. A few additional items such as a coat, hat, gloves, etc. the prospective Officer will be expected to pay another $200 to $400. The newly hired, untrained Officer has just spent over $4,000 for a job that has no pay to start. After they have worked hard and tested for a part-time position, they may earn @$8.50 an hour to start. For any extra duties or special details (wedding receptions, school events, etc.) they may earn $20 an hour. Most Departments pay their part-time officers more than a full-time Windham Police Officer makes, @$13.50/hr. An off-duty job pays one and a half times the normal pay rate of @$20/hr.

Positive changes since 2002:

1.) Special detail pay increased from $15/hr to $20/hr.

Negative changes since 2002:

1.) The costs of uniforms have increased.

2.) The cost of the academy training has increased.

3.) Uniform allowances were not paid on anniversary dates in 2004, in violation of Ordinance 139.01 c.

4.) Still no Officers have received the listed "issued" uniforms as outlined in the ORD.

5.) Some dispatchers were "lost", but were replaced (more training and inexperience).

III. Pay and Benefits

A.) Dispatchers

According to the latest information, the communications supervisor's (head dispatcher) pay rate is $11.34 an hour. A full time dispatcher pay rate is $10.82 an hour. The clothing allowance for these full-time dispatchers is to be $225 a year. Also, according to the Administrative Code, 139.01b, full time dispatchers are to receive three complete uniforms to start, after 90 days, as specified by the code. Part-time dispatchers start at $8.22 an hour, after their training is complete. During the training period, they earn only the minimum wage of $5.15 an hour. After two years, their top rate is $9.88 an hour. There is no uniform allowance for part-time dispatchers. There had been an agreement previously in which a part time dispatcher would be provided with two "polo" style shirts as uniforms, at a cost around $20. With the addition of embroidery, the cost is over $30. The department does not represent a professional appearance when wearing "street clothes" on duty. Additionally, the department needs to create a position for a Chiefs' secretary/records clerk. This person would be responsible for typing correspondence, filing reports, making appointments, and maintaining records and other duties necessary to maintain a cohesive operation within the Department.

B.) Police Officers

When the Police Department hires an individual, the person starts off as a Reserve or Auxiliary Officer. After a thorough background check, the Officer candidate must then also complete a Psychological and Polygraph examination. The tests cost @ $650. The department has cut costs by not hiring anyone in the past two years. By law, the Officer candidate must also complete a physical examination, including a stress test, before employment. This Officer will have all the responsibilities of a regular sworn Officer, but their time is not paid. After a training and probationary period, they may test for a part-time position. At this status, the Officer is paid for working his/her shift. The starting pay is $8.50 an hour. After two years of service the Officer makes their part time top rate of $10.41 an hour. Part-time Officers are to receive a uniform allowance of $100 per year after one year of service. In addition, part-time Officers are also to be issued uniforms as prescribed in Ordinance 139.01 a 2. A ballistic vest should also be provided by the Department, after being purchased by the individual. The vests generally cost about $500 each. If a position is made available, the part-time Officer may test for a full-time position. When hired, the full-time Officer is to be supplied with the appropriate sets of seasonal uniforms, according to Ordinance 139.01a 2. A yearly uniform allowance of $400 is to be issued to each Officer on their respective anniversary date. No officer or dispatcher, since at least 1997, has ever received their "issued" uniforms. Also, no uniform allowance has been issued for 2004. Additionally, with current uniform costs, no officer can reasonably supply themselves with the required uniforms. This can result in an unprofessional appearance, as perceived by the public, the court system, and other Law Enforcement agencies.

C.) Health Care

The Village of Windham provides health care to its full-time employees. Though not as comprehensive as other municipalities, or private industries, it is nevertheless provided. The dental plan portion was removed in March of 2002, and a one- percent increase in pay was given to those employees to offset the cost. This caused many hardships for those individuals who were in the process of having dental work done.

Positive Changes since 2002:

1.) The addition of a BDU style uniform allowed to be worn by the Officers. They are

less costly than the regular uniforms.

Negative Changes since 2002:

1.) Employees now pay ten percent per month of their health insurance.

2.) There has been no pay raises or even COLA increase in 2003 or 2004.

3.) The uniform allowance was not paid until the end of 2004.

4.) Other Village employees had Longevity pay increased to $10 per year of service, but the Police Department personnel are still paid at $5 per year of service.

IV. Training and Equipment

A.) Dispatcher

Personnel whom after being sworn in to the dispatcher/clerk position receive 80 to 120 hours of training. The training period is flexible due to the fact that some individuals may have more experience than others may. This training period is now paid at the rate of $5.15 an hour. While training the dispatcher sits with another dispatcher and is shown many of the tasks. Duties and tasks include operating the LEADS terminal, typing and clerking complaints and citations, entering reports into the computer, and answering the fire department and police telephone calls. Not all tasks can be shown, due to the fact that a particular type of call, LifeFlight for example, may not occur during the training period. When compared with the Highway Patrols' dispatch training period of 240 hours, paid at the rate of $15 an hour, the Windham Police/Fire dispatch training period is far behind the curve.

B.) Police Officer

As stated previously, after completing the police academy, which is currently over 600 hours of schooling, the Officer may now need to complete additional training for the many facets of police work. These could include RADAR, BAG Datamaster, LEADS, and or Alcohol Detection and Prosecution courses. Additional continuing education courses such as Interviews and Interrogations, Child Abuse Investigation, or dealing with the mentally challenged are just a few which are extremely helpful in allowing the Officer to complete his job. Other more specialized courses such as Evidence or Field Training is also needed to keep the Department operating efficiently. These courses can not only be costly, but time consuming as well. In addition to all of these, the Officer MUST re-certify yearly in firearms training, and many other courses as mandated by the State of Ohio.

C.) Equipment

The Police Department currently has three marked police cruisers. All were purchased in 2000. A fourth car was sold at auction this year due to it being a safety hazard and in non-running condition. Of the three remaining vehicles, Unit 2 has @ 125,000 miles, Unit 3 has @92,000 miles, and Unit 4 (K-9) has @62,000 miles. These vehicles are past their warranty, and are showing signs of wear and tear. Unit #2 had the top end of the engine repaired in 2004, and Unit #3 has a battery that continually goes dead. A fourth vehicle, a 1991 Dodge Shadow is used as an unmarked vehicle. It has @96,000 miles on it. This vehicle was donated to the Department by Wolfe's automotive, with the understanding it is returned when no longer used. Currently, it is in non-running condition, as the battery is dead and several tires are flat. The equipment on the marked cruisers is also wearing out. Neither spotlight is working on either Unit #2 or #3. A rotator light on Unit #2 is also not functioning. The video camera system in the cruisers is working, however, the portable microphones and control (belt) packs periodically need repaired or replaced. Mobile Data Terminals, including laptop computers, were obtained for each cruiser with a Grant. This piece of equipment is a vital source of information for the Officer on the road, as it can save them from using the car radios to run license plates or persons who may have warrants. The Officer may not want to use their radio, as many wanted persons own portable scanners, and they, or their associates would have a "heads up" that the Police are looking for them. The Police Department has @12 portable radios. Six of these were purchased in 1999, to be issued to the full-time Officers. The other eight are a much larger and heavier model, and are used by the part-time officers. Only 6 of these 8 are working currently, but many of the portable microphones and carriers are broken. Soon the batteries will need to be replaced also. Of the newer radios, only five are currently working properly. Four of these were recently in for repairs. The department has eight MagLite re-chargeable flashlights. Only three of these are in working condition. Four are in need of bulbs, and at least one is in need of a switch assembly. Gunner and PTL McComas replaced Nikko and Mike Gerardi as the K-9 and handler. Booking photos are kept on floppy discs. When preparing a photo line up, it may take an hour or more to go through the discs to find individuals matching the suspect's physicalcharacteristics. Photo line-up software is needed to keep these photos in our computers. As noted before, reports are entered in one of the three computer terminals within the Police Department. The memory is getting full, and an upgrade is needed. Recently, the Department was behind in its daily back-up report because WPD was out of the tapes used in this report. If the computer had "crashed" much, if not all of the information entered in this time period could have been lost. Also, another terminal would be well used, as on many occasions, Officers have to wait to use a terminal to enter or work on a report The Department Library is still inadequate, but a bookshelf was donated to get the Law books out of a storage box and onto the shelf. There is still no back-up generator for the Police Department and Administration office building. Even the emergency light in the dispatch area does not work. There has been shown an expressed need for the Department to have mobile/cellular phones. These are proven tools in civil and natural disasters. Many of the Officers carry their own cell phones, and use them for police business, without reimbursement. Other Village employees have cellular phones provided, or they are reimbursed for the use of their phones.

Positive Changes since 2002:


Negative Changes since 2002:

1.) Officers and Dispatchers have been unable to attend many classes and courses.

2.) Equipment continues to be in overworked and in disrepair.

3.) Supplies have to be requested instead of having on hand.

4.) Department is short a marked cruiser.

5.) Currently no Reserve Officers in Department to move up ranks and fill positions.

V. Conclusion:

There are many problems which "plague" the Windham Police Department. Some of these are old, continuing problems, while others are relatively new. The themes, however, are mainly the same. In order to keep competent, dependable employees, their employer, in this instance, the Village of Windham, must provide them with an environment that nurtures a sense of accomplishment and achievement. It must also compensate those employees monetarily and with adequate benefits to keep them loyal. They also need to keep the employees informed and the lines of communication open so the rumors do not run morale into the ground. Finally, because of the "Fiscal Emergency" over the past three years, the Department supplies and items necessary for the continuous daily operations, as well as equipment repairs have been curtailed to the point it is effecting the basic operation of the Windham Police Department.



































At this point, the report lists the names of all people that have been hired to dispatch and those who’ve been partially trained but left before training was finished.  Also, there is a listing of current and former officers and if they’ve left, the stated reason for leaving.  Both are rather lengthy lists.

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