About . . . . . . Classes . . . . . . Books . . . . . . Vita . . . . . . . Links. . . . . . Blog

by Peter Moskos

August 16, 2016

The DOJ is Right (2): The actual department is a mess (1/3)

Mixed in with questionable methology, intentions, and anecdotes, there's some of God's awful truth in this DOJ report. Yes, the department is a disfunctional organziaton that keeps going only because of the dedication of rank-and-file who do their best, despite it all. (pp.128-139)

A) Here's how they describe the rule book, policies, or the book of General Orders I've already tried to describe. To say G.O.'s doesn't follow "best practices" (pdf link) is an understatement:
We found systemic problems with BPD’s method of drafting, distributing, and implementing policies that has made it difficult for officers to understand proper procedures and adapt to changing rules.
This led the criminal prosecution (and acquittal) of officers.

And there's this (I know you might want to skim over this eye-numbing paragraph, but really read it to let it sink in):
The Department has historically developed and published policies and amendments in a manner that officers find to be confusing and opaque. As many officers told us, the numbering system alone is a source of confusion. Generally, BPD policies have been organized with titles that included letters and numbers. During one period, however, the letter-and-number system was replaced with a system that included numbers alone. The new system only applied to newly implemented policies, however, and the majority of policies were still classified by letter-and-number. Policies from different eras are written in different formats, and often modified by annexes, memoranda, amendments, and rescissions, instead of replacing the old policy completely, making it difficult for officers to be confident that they had the current, complete policy.
And this:
While the policy manual has a table of contents [ed note: with no friggin page numbers; there are no page numbers! (Stab self in eye)], there is no index, and new additions and revisions can quickly make older manuals difficult to navigate. In fact, during our investigation, BPD was unable to locate one of its own amendments to disclose to us.
And of course there's a lack of any input from the rank and file:
BPD likewise fails to provide officers the opportunity to provide input on the policy as it is developed. We spoke with many officers, including supervisors and others in positions of authority, who were frustrated by the lack of input they were able to have on policy development, including the policies developed in 2016. With nearly 3,000 sworn officers and another 1,000 personnel, BPD will likely receive conflicting input in addition to the helpful ideas generated if it seeks input from officers. Without seeking this input, however, BPD fails to learn critical lessons from the field, and, as importantly, it risks alienating its officers and undermining adherence to the policies it develops.
B) And then there's training:
Indeed, BPD’s former director of the Training Academy released a needs assessment in 2015 that highlighted an “internal culture of placing training second,” “expectations for ‘rushed’ training,” and “outside pressure to condense training programs” as threats to the current program. See Baltimore Police Department Training Academy Needs Assessment (July 2015), at 5. Unfortunately, after the training director sent the needs assessment to BPD leadership, he did not receive a response for months. He also organized three different meetings with patrol commanders to begin making changes based on the needs assessment, but no commanders attended the meetings.
Officers who had furthered their training did so because of their own personal interest or ambition, often using private funds and overcoming obstacles posed by supervisors or work schedules. Rather than encouraging additional training, supervisors view training as a peripheral activity that is consistently superseded by the need to keep officers on the street.
And consider this about the BPD academy:
The program lost about two-thirds of its staff over the past three years: training staff fell from approximately 60 in 2013 to 20 currently. During the course of our investigation, thirty classes had no primary instructor. Multiple training units, including the ones responsible for supervisor training for new sergeants and lieutenants, were entirely vacant with no personnel staffing them.
The Fraternal Order of Police has also highlighted this concern, noting that class sizes for new recruit training have averaged 35–50 officers.
BPD training facilities are in a similarly troubling state. During the course of our investigation, we were informed that BPD has only 17 computers available to train its nearly 4,000 personnel. The buildings themselves are in disrepair: water cannot be consumed from the faucets, and the buildings often lack workable air conditioning and heating. According to the Academy’s recent needs assessment:

"The decrepit state of the academy itself gives the impression of a lackadaisical and uncommitted attitude towards the necessities of training the modern police officer. Recruits, sworn personnel, visiting law-enforcement experts, and civilians get the impression that they are party to a fly-by-night, poverty-stricken department when they find themselves in a crumbling, drafty building."

[Ed Note: And this is the "new" academy! No different in the "old" academy I attended on Guilford St. But at least in the old days we could drink the water.]
You'd think the DOJ might have mentioned that a trainee was shot in the academy. I mean, it really doesn't get worse than that. At the time the academy was on its seventh head of training in the last 19 months.

[to be continued in posts 2 and 3]

1 comment:

Rich Giordano said...

Two things which I suspect will resonate with you from my 36+ years as a Philadelphia Probation Officer. Trying to make sure people really are trained the state of Pennsylvania imposed a mandatory 40 hours training requirement per year. Because our department has one person assigned to training, almost all of that person's time is spent insuring that people meet that number rather than being able to really develop and/or locate training that will have an impact. The result- cynicism about the idea of training itself and having to sit through things which I used to describe as stealing a couple of hours of my life.

More maddening still- when someone screws up we would never deal with it directly. We would instead institute some new rule or yes training protocol which would serve only to inconvenience those who were actually trying to do the job and which those who routinely screwed up would likely just ignore as they had procedures before.

One more thing- you cannot say often enough that good management and supervision is THE most important element you can have. Some percentage of people will do things with diligence without anyone around. Some percentage will act in the opposite way even if someone is watching them 24/7. The rest will be pulled in one direction or the other based on how these two groups are managed. You make several absolutely spot on points in regard to what cops (and I would say P.O.s too) have to do as a practical matter. It is the responsibility of the supervisor to see that it remains within a certain boundary and doesn't spiral into abuse.