Finance recommends 8 more officers – final vote on Tuesday

Posted January 9th, 2018 @ 9:10 AM by

This is a brief recap – not very detailed. I’d suggest watching the video starting at 1:05 for public testimony and 1:28 for discussion – its about 50 minutes long if you watch just the discussion. Koval is combative as usual, particularly with Rummel but also in his atrocious use of language.

Mayor Paul Soglin asks several questions that get the following answers. There are 469 officers, there have been retirements in the last week, that is the authorized strength. Patrol services is 196 and it varies from time to time. Next recruit class is May 29th and without this resolution there are 20 people in the class, if the 8 are added there will be 28. If they are not added, they won’t have another class until 2019, 2020. They have an ongoing hiring process, as soon as the 2018 class starts they will start the application process for 2019.

The mayor asks them why they are asking for this. Vic Wahl says that its the same thing they talked about during the budget, they are trying to get 15 officers, they are 23 officers below where they should be just in the patrol function. There are also some other needs. They feel they are behind given the level of service they want to be able to provide. They have over 100 officers that can retire but in the last few weeks they had 16. They anticipate that they need 19 officers for attrition. They think there will be more retirements between now and May.

Mike Verveer asks that if in addition to Scott McConnell there are 16 more? Yes and one more in mid-February. 19 of the officers they hired are for attrition and then one more gang officer that was added in the budget so that is how they got to 20.

Verveer asks if there is a waiting list, they say there is a contingency list in case people drop out or take another list. Last year they exhausted the contingency list of 15. In the last class someone pulled out or retired at the last moment and there was only 1 person left on the contingency list and they didn’t accept the offer so that remained open. They have had last minute changes. They talk about the stages of the hiring process – chief interviews, go to the psychiatrist, etc.

Verveer asks for the interview process timeline information before the council meeting. They do try to do a national recruitment process, they go to 8 different states, there are relocations and searches for housing.

Verveer asks why they need to have this authorization by February for this class to get to what a referral might mean for the department. This takes 15 votes and there may be absences at the council. They are doing oral boards now and they need all the background investigations done by Feb 7 and needs to be approved by Feb 12 by the police and fire commission and they only meet monthly. Once that is done they will have their eligibility list and then they do a ride along, interview with the chief and psychiatrist for further evaluation. Then an approval list is taken back to the police and fire commission and tentative job offers are made end of month and then more exams and physical agility tests.

Verveer says this is contingent on the police and fire commission meeting. If they don’t advance enough people, they might not have a large enough pool to select from.

Verveer notes that nationally the interest has waned. Chief says they have a lot of outreach but they only had 575 people apply, when he was doing this work they never had less than 1000 people apply for the job. They changed to May to get the college recruits.

Verveer asks about the OIR recommendations and delaying until those are considered. They have a joint meeting on Thursday and the department will respond by the end of the week. Chief Koval says that the report doesn’t go to the staffing level, that is a “misdirection” and “fools gold” to talk about that and they have had 5 studies to look at staffing in the last three decades and they understand the benchmarks are and it indicates there is workload. He is tired of hearing about crime rates because crime rates isn’t what they are all about, it is part of what they are about – civil disputes, traffic accidents, heroine and mental health all take a lot of time. You can kick the can down the road but this is a “specious stalling technique” that doesn’t address the immanency, urgency and data we have had. “It’s time to own up, be accountable and understand this is a compelling issue of urgency for our constituency”. Chief Williams says that they have had to eliminate completely or leave vacant some of the positions to get more people in patrol services including the evening TEST unit (4 or 5 people doing traffic stops), 4 public safety education positions, Allied Drive neighborhood officer is open until June, Langdon St. officer, 5 CPT positions, 1 task force position and one Neighborhood Resource Officer. Some of the positions will be filled in June, others may vacant all year and these new officers will help, but not til 2019. Koval says that the officers using family leave is off the charts, but that is a state right and we have had military deployments. They have had unforeseen injuries that lead to workers comp claims – so think it is important to staff it up now.

Verveer says this happens every year, but it is worse than ever, what would the additional 8 positions mean a year from now. Williams says that they can only guess about retirements, but this will be very beneficial, they will have more officers to address the vacancies. People are retiring and people are using leave time and its off the charts. The trend is that there will be a lot of people leaving in the next three years.

Verveer asks about the data collection and performance evaluations and about what the non-patrol positions are doing. He asks them to speak to those issues. For instance, the CPT sergeants don’t know what the CPT people are doing. Koval says that if you start with the proposition that the only things that are measurable are those things that are countable – how many crimes, how many tickets, that is low hanging fruit and countable. He says the community is more concerned about building community relationships that are used later. He says that “in terms of the drive by on performance evaluations” Couper supports him getting rid of them. He says the CPT stuff is also inaccurate. Vic Wahl says that police departments struggle with performance measures – looking at arrests, crime rate etc are not the things we want to focus on and that is not how we want people to spend their time. They have overwhelming amount of data on patrol. ON CPTs they have been tracking their work that doesn’t go through the 911 center – they have data to measure those non traditional community oriented things. Those measures are hard to match up with outcomes – as it is nationwide.

Sarah Eskrich asks about February PFC meeting, and confirms the second meeting is in March.

Barbara McKinney says she is a sponsor of the resolution and she comments that OIR didn’t look at staffing levels, she has been reading the 140 recommendations and she is concerned about the EROs (police in schools). She has questions about high concentration of police resources in the downtown area. She says that Thursday is the presentation, will that impact your timetable if this is delayed. Williams says if there is a delay, that would push it past when they need to finish the investigations.

Marsha Rummel says there are four sponsors sitting here, so she assumes it will pass, but she is not one of them. The Etico thing was re-sent to alders today since the chief thinks the OIR report is “totally irrelevant” – Chief interrupts her to say that is not exactly what he said. he talks over the top of him – she asks if she can finish before he tells her what she is saying is not true. Rummel asks that the Etico report talks about patrol and non-patrol staffing recommendations. How will we track the data, she has questions about the performance reviews which don’t have to be answered now. She would like clarification about why there are not performance reviews. She wants this looked at – reading the report there are other people who do patrol and patrol does other things and that doesn’t mean everything neatly fits in categories. If we want the split between proactive and other work and what does that mean on a daily basis. We also need to look at our union agreements, to her we can’t answer all of this before the 8 officer deadline but these are telling issues that need to be addressed before we move forward.

Mayor responds that there is a difference between monitoring time and performance evaluations and they shouldn’t be confused. He says that this organization has rarely used performance evaluations and they use a systems approach in a different department. 5 or 6 years ago we were unhappy with the amount of low income units being constructed, they did an analysis, got a report back and then the team in the CDA looked at the report and came in with analysis to fix the problem and how to implement. So they are using TIF and tax credits to add more housing units and we are on target to that goal of 1000 affordable housing units in 5 years. There are supervisors who manage people and he has not discussed it with Jim O’Keefe but the unit has worked to develop a system to get the desired results. There may be then an allowance for someone who is not carrying their weight not being detected in that kind of system, but it does not pit individuals against each other and more importantly each individual is not working toward their individual goal but they are working towards an outcome to produce what we mandate. He says there is a second example that makes the point but also gets to the level of staffing. He says that they get reports on officers only responding to priority calls and that is a concern to him, he is also worried about the violence and 7 moths when they had more homicides than they had ever seen in a year, but for 5 months now there have been none. Neither period can be used to justify staffing. In the second period – 5 months 0 there were two changes. One was responding to hot spots and the second was community response team. He can’t tell you what role they both played in the 5 month time period, but we got results. There is no guarantee it will continue. He says a system response, not officers being held accountable for the violence, instead they participated in the response. These 8 officers will just get us back to where we started. If we have too many officers all we would have done is advance this 7 months and we can dial is down in 2019. The downside is looking at the challenges we are facing – where we only go to priority calls, officer burnout in 3rd and 4th quarter of the year – we have much to gain and very little to lose. The reason this is a budget amendment is because if we put it in there we would have jeopardized the COPS grant application – its the only reason we have this anomaly.

Paul Skidmore says this is a “strange discussion” and he supports it. He blathers . . . repeating what others have said – its on the video at 2:13. He says they are doing more community policing that the community wanted and we have to work on other things like working with the Urban League on affordable housing. He says he likes the OIR report, after his initial opposition, its complex, its not like other reports, he says there are some good recommendations here, he looks at it like a platform and they may differ on how they get there. More blathering and repeating. He talks about chapter 51 (mental health) transfers and parties that the police spend time addressing. Those are two new points others didn’t make. He says they are under a time crunch. He says some of the comments that have been made about why we shouldn’t do this aren’t credible. Statistics can be misleading. He says that the Village of Blue Mounds has a higher rate of officer involved shootings than Madison and New York.

Eskrich wants to support, she doesn’t want to discredit the idea of dialogue. That is one of the most important take aways on the OIR report, we need to be open to these discussions. There is a lot of confusion right now. She encourages the chief to hear the feedback and take it in stride. She sensed tension tonight. She thinks referring for a few weeks would be good if they could to address those concerns, she doesn’t see a point in making that motion tonight. She ask about when they will have a community meeting.

Rummel says that at the last ad hoc committee it was decided they will lead on community outreach and they will discuss at their next meeting.

McKinney offers a substitute motion to refer to a the special meeting of January 16th for the Finance meeting. Escrich seconds. McKinney reminds them that she is a sponsor and says that this is to hear what the community has been telling them, and to keep within the timeline. If there was a special Finance Committee meeting that night there would be no delay.

Mayor clarifies its an amendment. He asks for a time in the amendment. Rummel says there is a presentation at 6:00, they could re-arrange the CCEC meeting, so she suggests 5:00 or 4:30. Mayor says 5:30 and they can work that later.

Eskrich says her concern is that members of the public will show again and they will have this discussion at the council meeting that night. People came tonight, they would come again before the council meeting and then stay late into the meeting at council. I know it comes from a genuine place, but it seems to be not genuine because we know what the outcome would be. She says that they could delay to the 22nd, have a council meeting on the 6th and then there would be a tight turn around for PFC on the 12th.

Skidmore doesn’t support, there will be alot of people at the council meeting. He sees no practical effect except to add time, angst and animosity. He sees no benefit in delay. It will be frustrating.

Referral gets 2 or 3 voice votes (McKinney and Rummel for sure).

Final vote, the only no is Rummel. Wood, Eskrich, McKinney, Verveer, the mayor and Skidmore all vote aye.

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