Starting their Careers

Officers Ryan Riedy and Joe Sears started their careers today.  They both graduated from the 97th Class of the Mid Michigan Police Academy in Lansing on Friday night, May 13.  Both are fellow Spartans having graduated from MSU in Criminal Justice (like me).  Sears is from Lapeer and Reidy from Waterford.  Riedy’s cousin, Mike Riedy is a member of our Fire Department. They both received awards from their academy class–driving, report writing, academics, marksmanship and weapons management.   IMG_0382

They took their oaths of office this morning in the presence of city officials, command staff and their family and friends. The oath of office is a really, really big deal:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of this state, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of police officer in and for the City of Auburn Hills according to the best of my ability.

An oath is a statement of loyalty.  In this case it is a statement of loyalty to our constitution and the laws of our state.  Failure to carry out those duties can actually be a crime – malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance in office.  It is a serious undertaking and we treat it like that.  When a person graduates from a police academy they are not yet an officer.  When they become employed as an officer they are not yet and officer–not until they take that oath of office.  It is binding on a person.

As I watched Riedy and Sears take their oaths today I thought about what their futures may bring.  All of us here will do everything we can to teach them the right and proper ways to be an officer.   To meet the daily challenges of this job with integrity and perseverance.  Their families were rightly very proud of them today.  I am too.  But I know the challenges ahead. It isn’t an easy job.  Not everyone can do it.  People who choose it feel a calling to it — most don’t wake up one day and decide to become a police officer.  They will tell you that they wanted it from them time they were small children–they just know it is the job for them.  Police officers are not chosen because they are drawn to the power and authority aspects of the job –not here anyway.  Officers will tell you that they see it as a helping profession – they want to help the community and do good in the world. We know that doing good in the world often requires that a person who has done wrong be held accountable –and the police are the ones who enforce that accountability.

Their next challenge is to pass field training – 3 months of close supervision and training by a qualified officers followed by 10 days of “shadow” in which they are observed by a training officer as a test to determine if they are ready to be a solo performing police officer.  Everyday of those 3 months and the 10 “shadow days” will be rated by a trainer on how well they did or didn’t learn the challenges of the day.  It is an important process and if a person doesn’t pass they cannot be a police officer.  Most departments have a very similar training program.

I wish them long and healthy careers here at Auburn Hills.  It is a great job in a great community.

 

Colorado to Tighten Requirements for Police Psych Evaluations

If you have been a reader of my blogs for awhile you will have noticed that I have very strong opinions on the subject of standards for police officers.  You may know that we are required to have a license from the state to practice our profession.  We are required to attend a police academy, study required subjects and pass a comprehensive test.  The last step to becoming licensed is to be hired by a department who then activates the Image result for psychological evaluationlicense.

Being hired by a department is a serious matter.  The cities that hire officers are required by law to perform some steps before hiring.  One is to do a comprehensive background investigation.  We do that using a private investigator so that we have a 3rd party evaluation of individual.  We look for a clean record, and other kinds of things that should exclude a person like evidence of lying or biased behavior.  Because history repeats itself.  If they have done it in their past it is likely that they will do it in their future.  Why would we choose to take a chance?  Our duty is to the community not to any police applicant.

The other very important step is the psychological evaluation.  It is required in Michigan.  We use a specially trained psychologist to evaluate each candidate in an entire day of testing and interview.  We need to know who they are as a person and rule out any troubled individuals.  But like Colorado, despite the fact that it is required many cities save money by asking the medical doctor to sign the form certifying the individual.  No testing, no pysch interview, nothing.  It is just a sidelight during the physical examination. I guess if they don’t offer to harm the doctor or a member of the staff that is good enough for the signature.

But the licensing agency, MCOLES, doesn’t have power to challenge those.  You might recall that I am a commissioner so I have some knowledge of these issues.  We have some bills before the Legislature right now as we have had over a number of sessions and one aspect is to strengthen the rules requiring that an exam take place.  I continue to be disappointed that few see that aspect as important and worthy of attention.

And we have no power at all over police reserves.  They may dress in uniform and look exactly like police but there are no rules at all about them unless the department establishes them.  The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office is one agency with reserves that they monitor closely and establish rules of conduct.

And I think it should be required at other stages in an officer’s career.  Like when they change departments –the new one should test again.  And when they are promoted to supervise others.  People can change somewhat over time and as they mature.  And if they have served in a challenging assignment for a period of time –that can impact them.  Investigating child abuse is one that comes to mind.  That can take you off center.

Here is an article on the topic I found interesting:

Denver Post article on Colorado’s considerations of a requirement for psych evaluations for police officers.

 

What We Can Learn From the Police That Pioneered Body Cameras – Governing Magazine

Among police and their communities across the country there is 1208_taser-800x480an important conversation occurring about police worn body cameras.  Should we or shouldn’t we?  There are many aspects to be considered on this important and expensive topic.  We have already had discussion with our city council to educate them on the issues that surround any potential adoption of this technology.

Governing magazine published this article which gives some insight into this important issue.

What We Can Learn From the Police That Pioneered Body Cameras.

NBC News posted this short video on body cameras

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Inspiration

I draw inspiration from other police leaders.  I look for leaders I think are progressive and ethical.  Recently, I found a blog from one of my policing heroes that talks about another!  William Bratton, NYPD Commissioner (formerly of LAPD, Boston PD, NY Transit) wrote about Sir Robert Peel in April 2014.  Before Peel, policing had an ugly history.  Eventually US policing modeled itself after the Metropolitan Police and we adopted and incorporated Peel’s Principles. I’ve copied it here for you:

In my long police career I have often drawn inspiration from a great hero of mine, Sir Robert Peel.  Peel founded the London Metropolitan Police in 1829.  He went on to serve as British Prime Minister for two separate terms and earned a reputation as a powerful and effective reformer.

In addition to establishing London’s first modern, disciplined police force, Peel articulated “nine principles of policing which remain as relevant and meaningful today as they were in the 1830s.   The man had an innate grasp of the challenges police officers face and of the complex interplay between the police and the public that is at the very heart of policing in a free society.  Defining the basic mission of police as prevention, recognizing that police must win public approval, favoring persuasion and warning over force, and defining success as the absence of crime and disorder rather than in terms of police action — these were all cutting edge ideas in the 1980s let alone the 1830s.

Peel’s nine principles inform the vision of collaborative policing that I believe is essential to healing the divisions that exist between the police and the communities we serve.  They will guide us in our efforts to foster shared responsibility for public safety as we move forward:

Principle 1 – “The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.”

Principle 2 – “The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon public approval of police actions.”

Principle 3 – “Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observance of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.”

Principle 4 – “The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.”

Principle 5 – “Police seek and preserve public favor not by catering to the public opinion but by constantly demonstrating absolute impartial service to the law.”

Principle 6 – “Police use physical force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore order only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient.”

Principle 7 – “Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public  who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

Principle 8 – “Police should always direct their action strictly towards their functions and never appear to usurp the powers of the judiciary.”

Principle 9 – “The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.”

Guided by such values and with the help of all New Yorkers and the best efforts of the men and women of the New York City Police Department, I am confident of our success.

We are also guided by these values and ask for the help of all residents of Auburn Hills and the best efforts of the men and women of the AHPD, I am also confident of our success.

Interesting trivia:  British Police are called “Bobbies” as a nod to ROBERT Peel.  

How to Keep Bad Cops on the Beat

If you are a reader of this blog you’ll recognize how frequently I talk about keeping the confidence of the public which is critical to our ability to do our job.  You’ll also recall that I serve on the untitledMichigan Commission on Law enforcement Standards–in fact, I’m currently in my 2nd year as its chair.  I was appointed by Governor Snyder and previously appointed by Governor Granholm after being nominated by the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police who I represent on the Commission.The mission of MCOLES is lost on many people including currently licensed law enforcement officers.  Simply put — our mission, as set in 2 Michigan statutes, is to

“…serve the people of the State of Michigan by ensuring public safety and supporting the criminal justice community…. leadership through setting professional standards in education, selection employment, licensing, license revocation and funding….”

Other state have similar bodies that are often called POST organizations–Police Officer Standards and Training.   I realize that some might find this to be an arcane government bureaucracy kind of thing.  But it is much more than that.  We can’t keep your confidence and be effective in our communities if you don’t trust us.

How to Keep Bad Cops on the Beat.

I came across this interesting article which looks at POST organizations like MCOLES and shows what an effective organization can do and what happens when it doesn’t do its job.  If there isn’t an effective “police of the police,” serious problems are visited upon the communities and the residents of those communities with little or no avenue of redress.  MCOLES is a state agency with about 18 employees and an executive director who is selected by the 15 member Commission.  There are about 19,000 police in Michigan.

In Michigan, MCOLES is charged by state statute to be the “police of the police.”  MCOLES can take an officers license to practice under certain conditions and we are one of the states mentioned in the article that can only de-license an officer upon conviction or plea of guilty to a felony.  So there has to be a conviction for a felony (serious) crime, not a charge, but a conviction and then the officer is offered due process again through the state’s administrative court system asking them to show cause why they should not lose their license.  Ultimately these cases come before the Commission where an official action has to be taken.  There are approximately 20 de-licensing actions that occur annually.  Most are uncontested, since there has already been a conviction in a court of law.  Many are incarcerated.

While I wouldn’t advocate creating a whole new bureaucracy to deal with every potential offense by a police officer in some sort of parallel universe to internal department discipline, I do think there is more that the public expects from us.   I think there are some crimes, when convicted (undergone all due process offered under the law) that should require that an officer lose his/her license although it is a misdemeanor crime.  For example, a larceny (theft) plea that lowers a felony charge to a misdemeanor would mean that an officer convicted of a misdemeanor larceny could keep his/her job.  There are are offenses for which a guilty plea could put an officer on the sex offender list but would not cause them to lose their license.  I think the public expects more from us.

Currently there is some legislation that was introduced by Senator Tonya Schuitmaker, R, from southwest Michigan, at our request.  It would give the Commission more ability to deal with cops who have been convicted of crimes in a court of law.

The vast, vast majority of Michigan police are highly ethical people who provide selfless service to their communities, sometimes at the cost of their own lives. But there are a few who have made poor choices and do not deserve to wear the same badge.  MCOLES helps us keep credibility and serves this state to the best of its ability under its limited budget and authority.

“We Value and Are Dedicated to Honest, Loyal and Truthful Behavior…”

One of the many ways that we measure ourselves and assure you that we operate legally and ethically is by auditing our property and evidence function.

We come into possession of many kinds and types of property for a variety of reasons.  We seize evidence of crimes–items that give information about the guilt or innocence of a person accused of a crime.  We get all types of things: money, guns, drugs, TVs, clothing—all kinds of things.  We seize contraband items, things that are against the law to possess.  Illegal drugs for example.  Sometimes people give us guns for safekeeping if a family member has expressed suicidal thoughts, as another example.

We take thousands of items every year and we must catalogue and manage these items until they can be returned to their rightful owner or be disposed of by one of the ways permitted under statute.  Michigan law is quite specific about how police handle and dispose of property.  Some items, like evidence in murder cases, must be kept forever–provisions must be  made for that type of long-term storage.

In our department, access to the evidence room is highly controlled.  It is under video surveillance all the time and only a select number of people have access to the room–I am not one of them.  I must go to the evidence custodian to gain access to the room.  It is all about limiting who has access.

Every now and then you read about police departments that mishandled evidence –or about departments that have members charged with crimes for stealing things that they got by virtue of being police.  We never want to be one of them.

Our mission statement says:

Integrity

We value, and are dedicated to, honest, loyal, and truthful behavior.  We believe in the basic human right of all people to be treated equally, with dignity, courtesy, and respect under all circumstances.

Because we value integrity and take our ethics seriously, we submit ourselves to an outside audit every 5 years.  The audit has been done by Robert Doran five times over the time I have been the chief.  Doran is the foremost authority on police evidence management in the nation.

I am happy to report to you that we passed with flying colors.  Congratulations to Lieutenant Ryan Gagnon, Technical Services Division Commander and Property Clerk, Gloria Guy for a successful audit.

Michigan law to require police to video record interviews – theoaklandpress.com

An interesting article on a new Michigan law.  Here in Auburn Hills we have been recording interrogations in major felony cases for more than 10 years.   We believe it is an important aspect of police credibility.  The community must believe that we act in ethical ways when we investigate crime.  You want us to be both effective (find the perpetrator) but then be legal and ethical in our pursuit of justice.

Michigan law to require police to video record interviews – theoaklandpress.com.

Public Trust – Guest Blogger Deputy Director – Police Thom Hardesty

You may have noticed from the Chief’s blog that we are fortunate to be hiring new police officers to fill some vacant positions. On Wednesday three of us were at the Oakland Community College Police Academy interviewing a number of cadets who are attending this 17 week course. Many times we ask prospective police officers what role they feel the public plays in policing a society, and we get a wide variety of answers. Being there brought back a memory for me of a circumstance when I was in police academy way back when (longer than I care to admit). I remember standing in the hallway on a break with a number of other cadets. A mother with a young child came around the corner and stopped when she saw several of us standing there in our cadet uniforms. She pointed towards us and told her son, “do you see those people, they are going to be policemen, don’t ever trust them” and then turned and walked away. I was absolutely floored by this statement. It has stuck with me as much as any legal or use of force training I had at academy. Obviously this young woman had a least one (likely more than one) very negative contact with a police officer to the point she doesn’t trust any of them. It’s important that these young cadets as well as the old-timers remember what impact we can have on the public and other police officers with our actions. Without the public’s trust in the legal system and the police, our job would be impossible. When people trust the police they are more likely to comply, even suspects who are being arrested. I am not sure where I read this statement to give the person proper credit but the saying was that the perception of fairness can be more important than the outcome. It’s important that people trust we are trying to do the right thing, even if sometimes we don’t get it right. There are two things that I think are important for police officers (we are fortunate to have a great staff here with these traits). We need the competence to get it right most of the time so the public sees positive results, and the character to admit it when we are not so we can learn from our mistakes. It takes months of training for our new police officers before they are competent enough to take on the daily challenges of being a police officer on their own. Character is something they will have already developed by the time we hire them, and making sure they have it is the reason it takes months to hire them. Both are needed to keep the Public’s Trust.

On My Honor…..

WARREN, Mich. — A Warren police sergeant has been given 12 months of probation and ordered to complete 150 hours of community service after being fired when it was discovered he wasn’t truthful on a police report. Sgt. Tim Maniere pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of willful negligence of duty. Deputy Commissioner Louis Galasso said Maniere was fired because his written report about a traffic stop and a drug-related arrest didn’t match separate videos of the incident. Galasso said a TV Warren cameraman was traveling with Maniere in July when the 15-year department veteran arrested a suspect on a felony narcotics charge. The case was dismissed and Maniere was suspended with pay after an evidentiary hearing in January showed the video and footage from the officer’s patrol car didn’t match his written report. “You have to have trust in your police department,” Galasso said. “We owe that to our community.” Maniere was also ordered to pay fines and costs of $1,500.

Bloomfield Hills— A West Bloomfield Township police officer and a Southfield man were charged Tuesday in a ticket-fixing scheme that a district judge described as an “alleged violation of the public trust.”Jeffrey Scott Pindzia, 38, of Canton Township, a 17-year veteran of the department, was charged with misconduct in office and conspiracy to commit misconduct in office. Both are felonies punishable by up to five years in prison and fines up to $20,000. Rudi S. Gammo, 31, was charged with two conspiracy counts in the same incidents, which allegedly occurred between Nov. 16 and Dec. 12. Although he is not a public officer, Gammo allegedly aided and abetted the scheme, investigators said. “Mr. Gammo denies the financial conspiracy that is alleged,” said his attorney, Ferris Haddad. Pindzia’s attorney, Mitchell Ribitwer, said after the court hearing that he is still learning the facts of the case and his client maintains he has broken no laws. Bloomfield Hills 48th District Judge Diane D’Agostini set bond at $20,000 for Pindzia and $100,000 for Gammo, whose criminal history includes convictions for assault and drug dealing. Both were remanded to the Oakland County Jail. West Bloomfield Township Police Chief Michael Patton said Pindzia was relieved of duties Monday afternoon pending the outcome of the criminal case and an internal investigation.

Court records reveal the charges concern an alleged offer made to a West Bloomfield resident over tickets he received. The man was ticketed by Pindzia on Nov. 18 for driving without a valid license and having tinted windows in violation of state law. Two days earlier, according to court records, he had been ticketed for a more serious case involving leaving the scene of a hit-and-run accident in the township. The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office determined the man was approached by Gammo with an offer to take care of his tickets for a $2,000 fee.

When I see these stories I am simply heartbroken.  For the officers, for their families, for their departments and for the entire police community.   I don’t know why they chose to violate their badge.  Officers who lose their sense of direction lose the public’s trust.  And we cannot complete our mission of community service without the confidence of the community. 

We want and need the support of the community.  We hold ourselves to a higher standard–people have a right to expect more from us.  At our Awards Recognition Ceremony each year we recall our Oath of Honor:

On my honor,
I will never betray my badge,
my integrity, my character,
or the public trust.
I will always have
the courage to hold myself
and others accountable for our actions.
I will always uphold the constitution
my community and the agency I serve.

I am deeply saddened by the choices of these officers.  But I want you to know that they are the exception–not the rule.