PTC cop report: Move along, nothing to see here


A consulting firm’s detailed evaluation of the Peachtree City Police Department revealed that while statistics show the department is very effective in its law enforcement duties, low morale is an issue among some employees.

The report, conducted by Matrix Consulting Group at the behest of City Manager Jim Pennington, is based on an anonymous survey of 40 of the department’s 72 employees along with a detailed analysis of statistical data and staffing levels.

The Matrix report recommended the city avoid moving to a public safety director model, concluding that the duties of both departments are far too specialized to be overseen by one person.

The general consensus of the survey respondents felt morale is “an important opportunity for improvement,” the report stated.

“Some solutions may be related to other responses such as the need for clearer communication, not only within divisions but also from management,” the report explained.

Matrix is slated to present the report and discuss its conclusions with the Peachtree City Council at its regular meeting Dec. 5. Matrix also conducted a similar review of the fire department as well; both were done for a cost of $65,000.

A frequent complaint from employees affecting morale to some degree dealt with ineffectiveness of the in-car computer wireless system, the report stated. Matrix noted that officers often have to return to headquarters to fill out reports due to wireless connectivity issues throughout the city.

To work on that problem and other technology issues, Matrix is recommending the city hire an information technology employee for the department, or at the very least one that can be shared with the fire department. Matrix estimates the cost of this new hire would be about $72,000 including salary and benefits.

A lack of pay raises was also indicated as a morale issue with the department, along with “several comments regarding the lack of support from the city (i.e., mayor, city council, etc.) for the department,” the survey concluded.

Despite the morale problems, the data shows that for the past two years the city has eclipsed the national average for “cleared case rate” among its criminal investigations division and has set aside an appropriate amount of time for “proactive” patrol duties along with handling calls for help from citizens.

The survey respondents noted that the department’s greatest strengths included teamwork, professionalism, training, equipment and dedication of officers to the community along with an emphasis on customer service, the survey results noted.

Because one concern is how female employees are treated by management, the 10 female employees among the 37 interviewed individually by Matrix staff were asked specifically “about the working environment for women,” according to the report.

“… All reported they are treated the same as male employees, have good working relationships with their co-workers and are treated with respect by supervisors and managers,” the report indicated.

The interviews drove home that “the most frequently noted area for improvement regarding the workplace environment was the minimal increase in pay over the last five years and technology issues with the CAD system connectivity in patrol cars,” the report noted.

The Matrix report also suggested that the department could benefit from using a more standard system of discipline to ensure that punishment when needed is handed out on a fair basis among police staff. Matrix recommended adopting a system that outlines a range of punishment for certain examples of “sustained” offenses. Such a system would help employees and management be on the same page when any infraction is determined to have occurred, Matrix noted, and it also help combat misinformation among employee that may occur during the internal affairs process, Matrix suggested.

“A comprehensive policy that clearly specifies the investigative process and provides discipline guidelines helps in providing a consistent message to employees of what discipline will result from particular prohibited behavior; it also will minimize employees’ beliefs or perceptions of unfair treatment when discipline is imposed,” the survey said.

Along with the recommended hire of an information technology staffer, the Matrix report also recommends hiring a sergeant to assist the sole lieutenant in charge of the professional standards division. That lieutenant is the primary internal affairs investigator and also oversees training for all department members as well as commanding the SWAT team and serving as the public information officer, among a myriad of other duties.

The report also examined the department’s statistics from June 2012 through May 2013. Matrix particularly lauded the high rate of “officer initiated” incidents which tallied over 42,000 or an average of 116 a day.

Two-thirds of those officer-initiated calls were for security checks, where an officer makes a specific effort to drive by a business, school, parking lot or residential area, perhaps to visually inspect the doors and windows of a building or vehicle, check for open doors, or walk through a site, according to the Matrix report.

The second highest classification of officer initiated call was in traffic stops, which made up nearly 30 percent of the total volume for the year for an average of more than 34 a day.

“The high number of officer-initiated incidents indicates that managers and supervisors are pro-actively managing field activities and that officers are performing pro-active tasks when time is available during their shift,” Matrix concluded. “The average time spent on an officer-initiated incident was 6.7 minutes, totaling 4,728 hours during the year for these activities for the primary officer, plus 1,010 hours spent by back-up officers. Additionally, officers spent 1,065 hours conducting cart path patrol during the available ‘proactive’ work hours.”

The data showed that Peachtree City officers spent about 45 percent of their on-duty time handling calls from the community and about 55 percent of their time on “proactive” officer-generated tasks.

The data evaluated by Matrix included statistics generated by the Computer Aided Dispatch system operated by the Fayette County 911 center.