Printer Friendly

Report praises Eugene police, suggests several improvements.

Byline: Chelsea Deffenbacher The Register-Guard

When the city of Eugene hires a new police chief next year, that person will get plenty of advice on how to improve the police department - specifically 42 recommendations from a national report that has cost the city $88,000 so far.

Overall, the report shows that the department has a sound recruitment and hiring process, has a strong representation of women in supervisory ranks and - overall - is a good organization to work for.

However, the department could improve in promoting people of color and in reducing the turnover rate among its communications and dispatch staff, and it could use a more consistent performance evaluation system. Some staff members also felt that the current promotion process is inconsistent and unfair, the report says.

The report was created by the Police Executive Research Forum - or PERF - review conducted last year at the Eugene Police Department and released last week.

According to its website, PERF is an "independent research organization that focuses on critical issues in policing." Founded in 1976, it is based in Washington, D.C.

The report is based on ride-alongs taken by PERF researchers with Eugene police, on the city's human resource documents and on an anonymous optional online survey of all police department employees. Fifty-two percent of the Eugene police staff participated in the survey, collected over the past year.

Police Chief Pete Kerns said recently that he had asked for the review as a follow-up to the one conducted in 2005 after a sex scandal in the early 2000s that involved former Eugene police officers Roger Maga[+ or -]a and Juan Lara.

Maga[+ or -]a is serving a 94-year prison sentence for raping 13 women. Lara was sentenced to five years, eight months in prison for using his badge to coerce women into sexual acts.

PERF began its evaluation of the Eugene Police Department not long after those crimes, which shocked the community and shook the department. The department received a list of 57 recommendations at the conclusion of PERF's initial evaluation in 2005.

One of those recommendations, for example, included hiring an independent police auditor to handle complaints against officers. Mark Gissiner currently holds that position. He leads the Eugene Civilian Review Board, which discusses complaints against police department staff and agrees or disagrees in a public forum with how the department handled them.

Other recommendations made to EPD following the first review include sending all internal affairs investigators to formal training, strengthening the department's public information office - including public outreach on social media - and formalizing the intake process and coding of complaints, which Gissiner also handles. Monday, he offered a mixed review of the most recent PERF report.

"Some things I agree with, some I do not, respectfully," Gissiner said via an email. "I respect the decision to ask for the review, and think the assessment was thorough and complete." He declined to elaborate.

The report: then and now

Kerns said he wished the second report could have been completed sooner.

"The ideal would have been five years after the 2005 report came out, we would have done a follow-up to demonstrate the progress we've made on that one," Kerns said. "If we weren't in the middle of an economic crisis in 2010, we would have asked them to do a follow-up then. Last year, we were seeing ourselves coming out of the economic crisis, we could afford a review of those, and we asked them to do two studies."

One of the newest studies, Kerns said, had PERF analyze the extent to which EPD followed through on the 2005 recommendations.

The second study was a climate study that asked: What is the environment in EPD for women employees, for people of color, and for non-sworn personnel?

"I think most organizations have some environmental or cultural condition that effects those first two groups. And in law enforcement, the sworn/non-sworn disparity is a factor, too," Kerns said. "So we want to have a place that is inclusive, respectful for everyone, and the nice thing about PERF is that anything they found here that needed improvement, they will have already seen someplace else, and they could offer us good advice on how to address it."

The report states that 11.6 percent of the Eugene Police Department's sworn employees - 21 officers - are women, compared with the 12 percent average of women in law enforcement, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The department fares better in the number of women in its supervisory ranks: Two of the department's four captain-level positions are held by women; three of the nine lieutenant positions and three of the department's 26 sergeants are women.

"We're only a little bit below the representation that's normally seen for women in law enforcement," Kerns said. "Once we hire women, judging by their representation on special teams, and by promotions, women do pretty well here. And with people of color ... it isn't where we want it to be, but it isn't bad."

EPD's 25 sworn officers of color make up 13.8 percent of its total number - less than is represented in Eugene's overall population, where 18 percent are people of color, the report states. No person of color on the police force holds a rank above sergeant.

The report recommends that EPD expand its outreach efforts to "promote even greater diversity in EPD's ranks." Suggestions for how include implementation of a cadet program (which the department already has), considering hiring candidates with nontraditional education backgrounds, such as in education or social work, and "reAaAeAeA thinking" the descripti writing test (essay-AaAeAeA type exam) part of its hiring protocol. Intend to ensure that an officer can write a coherent police report, the mandatory essay is being dropped by other departments because it's a possible barrier to hiring of otherwise-AaAeAeA qualified candidates, who could taught to write reports once they are on the job.

The report also suggests that the department "expand its training and professional development opportunities to women and people of color. Such opportunities could include sending personnel to additional local, state and national leadership schools."

"We have work to do internally for how women and people of color feel about the fairness of our processes," Kerns said of the survey's overall results. "The study revealed we have work to do with regard to how leadership is perceived in terms of fairness and equity and those kinds of things."

Leadership and sexual harassment

More than 41 percent of the department employees who participated in the anonymous survey said they agreed or strongly agreed that leaders in the department do not model respectful behavior within the department.

An additional 19 percent were neutral on the issue.

Additionally, the report states, "one of the main purposes of this study is to evaluate whether women have the same opportunities for promotion and career advancement in EPD that men have. As PERF conducted its review, (it became clear) through interviews, survey comments and other research that EPD has had internal incidents where complaints against personnel have involved inAaAeAeA appropriate harassment or possib sexual misconduct."

Two of the department's leaders - Capt. Sam Kamkar and Lt. Doug Mozan - have been accused of sexual harassment in recent years in separate incidents. The accusations were published by The Register-Guard earlier this year after a series of public records requests. It is not clear whether PERF looked into those two cases specifically.

Kamkar and Mozan remain employed by the Eugene Police Department.

Kamkar was placed on paid administrative leave in July, after he was accused of taking a cellphone photo of a female subordinate's cleavage in 2015 without her permission or knowledge. He initially faced no disciplinary action for taking the photo because Kerns decided that Kamkar acted inappropriately but did not violate the department's policy on sexual harassment. The female sergeant filed a complaint earlier this year with the state Bureau of Labor and Industries, accusing the police department of unlawful retaliation for her complaint.

BOLI dismissed the complaint on March 9. In a memo obtained by The Register-Guard, BOLI concluded that the woman "bears the burden of proof" to substantiate her claim. Later that month, the issue was made public in an article in The Register-AaAeAeA Guar

By the end of March, Kerns had announced his retirement after 30 years with EPD. He remains the acting interim chief, and Kamkar remains on the payroll, Kerns confirmed last week. His annual salary is more than $115,000 per year.

In February 2016, Mozan allegedly become intoxicated at a work conference in Bend and repeatedly touched the leg, neck and hair of a female officer. He then reportedly vomited in his work vehicle in front of other officers from Eugene and elsewhere, according to a report by the Eugene Police Auditor's Office. Disciplinary action - if any - that was taken in response to this incident has not been disclosed.

The PERF report recommends: "EPD should ensure that policies, practices, training and accountability measures are in place that reflect a strong commitment to preventing sexual harassment and making it clear that harassment and inappropriate conduct will not be tolerated at EPD. Those recommendations include regularly scheduled, mandatory anti-harassment training, ensuring that all managers and supervisors are trained on their responsibility to prevent harassment and provide a harassment-free workplace, and demonstrating that EPD is serious about its response to harassment by ensuring its policies are applied consistently and fairly to everyone, including command staff."

Looking forward

Patrick Willis, the vice president of the Eugene Police Employees' Association, said Monday via email that he generally wasn't surprised at the outcome of the report, noting that the union frequently has brought such issues before the city.

"EPEA leadership has provided input and recommendations to the city for years on how to improve morale, working conditions, retention, and recruitment in this department. Some of the same recommendations are in the new PERF report," Willis said, adding that he is looking forward to new leaderAaAeAeA ship as a catalyst to chang

Kerns will leave his job at the end of the year. Last month he announced that in January that he will become chief of staff of the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County, a nonprofit organization.

The city is in the process of hiring a new police chief and plans to have that person on the job by spring.

Two captain positions also are vacant, but hiring for them will be among the changes initiated by the incoming chief, Kerns said.

Willis said he will welcome that person.

"While our members are understandably frustrated by years of inaction, we are looking forward to working collaboratively with the new chief to address these ongoing issues detailed in the most recent PERF report and in the previous report from over a decade ago," he wrote in the email.

The police department spent $88,000 on the PERF reports so far, but it has not received its final bill, Kerns said.

"This is priceless information for the next chief coming in," Kerns said, pointing to the 106-page document. "These are the kinds of things I expected to see; these are common in law enforcement."

A copy of the entire PERF report is available at a link to the online version of this article at registerguard.com. SOME PERF REPORT RECOMMENDATIONS: Create career development plan for all employees Emphasize recruitment of women and people of color Train supervisors how to conduct performance evaluations Use employee evaluations to determine promotions, getting rid of the background review process because of "agencywide perceptions that the process is not objective and fair" Create formal, consistent process for addressing performance issues identified during evaluations Limit "acting in capacity" assignments to 90 days Make the communications staff feel respected Use regular departmentwide meetings Explore ways to solicit feedback from employees Chief should send email updates to foster staff dialog The PERF report is available at: rgne.ws/2hZckQT

Follow Chelsea on Twitter @ChelseaDeffenB. Email chelsea.deffenbacher@registerguard.co
COPYRIGHT 2017 The Register Guard
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2017 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Eugene Police
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 10, 2017
Words:1997
Previous Article:Behavior problems trouble school.
Next Article:Project for homeless teens pledged $2 million.
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters