The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

March 27, 2014

‘How do we get there?’ Leaders fret costs in study



Recommendations seek to improve good force

“The members of this police department do a good job,” said Dr. Paul E. O’Connell, the team leader of a study of the Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Department.

“They’re doing a noble profession and they’re doing it well,” he said Wednesday in presenting the report to Farrell council.

The study by the International City/County Management Association, Washington, was commissioned by the city under its status as a financially distressed community.

The report says that it is about helping the department improve “organizational and administrative problems that severely limit its capacity to monitor operations and this maximize organizational efficiency and effectiveness.”

While the report is filled with recommendations, some of the recommendations are “must haves” but many are “nice to haves,” said O’Connell, ICMA senior public safety consultant and a former New York City cop who is a professor of criminal justice at Iona College, New Rochelle, N.Y., who has written books on police training.

Among the highlights of the presentation, O’Connell said the department should:

• Have a corporal or sergeant on patrol duty for every shift, and have him “float” between the communities where he is most needed.

• Perform an audit of the property/evidence room, which could be done internally or by hiring someone.

• Create a strategic plan that sets goals and how they will be accomplished, and annual reports that detail progress on the plan.

• Formalize command staff meetings with clear agendas and the taking of minutes to discuss specific topics.

• Record and track performance information on key areas, such as overtime and arrests. The Mercer County 911 center has the capability to provide data to meet this end, O’Connell said.

“The personnel here have a keen understanding of what’s going on in the communities,” he said. “The problem is they’re not documenting it. They’re not taking enough credit for it.”

• Increase training, formalize a training plan and name a primary training officer to look for “teachable moments” in which training could be geared to things the police are experiencing in the field.

“Training is not a luxury,” O’Connell said. “Training is a necessity for police officers. These officers are getting training. They need more.”

While training generally costs money, there usually are local resources, such as colleges, that can be tapped, for low-cost or even free training sessions, he said.

“Officers should not go a year without any (training),” O’Connell said.

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