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Town police are awaiting the results of an independent study on the functioning of the Newtown Police Department, which is being conducted to measure current attitudes, working conditions, and productivity, in seeking to learn how the organization can improve, according to Police Commission Chairman Joel Faxon.
Well-run organizations can use the type of information produced by such studies to increase the performance of their members, Mr Faxon said.
Police Union President Leonard Penna, who is a patrol officer, told Police Commission members on April 3 that police officers recently filled out a survey as part of that study. Mr Penna termed the study “an excellent idea” that would provide useful information on the thinking of police department members. The department has 45 sworn officers, 43 of whom are represented by the labor union.
Mr Faxon responded that Police Commission members are looking forward to the study’s results, which will be prepared by James E. McCabe, PhD. Dr McCabe is an associate professor in criminal justice at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield. Dr McCabe retired at the rank of inspector from the New York City Police Department in 2006, after 21 years of service to pursue an academic career.
Dr McCabe prepared a similar report for the police department in the spring of 2012. That study found that there was low morale among rank-and-file officers, which was fueled by a high level of employee dissatisfaction. That study was conducted when Michael Kehoe was the police chief. Mr Kehoe was replaced by James Viadero as chief in January 2016.
“Chief [Viadero] has been instrumental in fostering a great relationship between management and our officers. The command structure is fully engaged and our officers are doing a spectacular job,” Mr Faxon said.
“Chief Viadero, when he was [a Police Commission member], reached out to Dr McCabe [to conduct the 2012 study] when the morale and productivity of the agency was at a very different place under the prior administration,” Mr Faxon said. In the past, Mr Viadero was a Police Commission member for five years, while he was a supervisor at the Bridgeport Police Department.
“We believe that the [Newtown Police Department] is performing very well, but we also welcome Dr McCabe’s professional evaluation of the current state of the department. We look forward to his presentation,” Mr Faxon added.
Chief Viadero said, “When the initial report was completed six years ago, there was a notion for a follow-up. When I was hired as the chief, I stated I would follow up on the recommendations put forth in the report.”
The chief added, “After being here for two years, I thought it was prudent to do a follow-up [report] to determine if we were headed in the right direction… [I] welcome the input from the rank-and-file and an independent researcher.”
“We look forward to the results when the follow-up report is completed… We welcome independent review, and this type of review is healthy for the growth and success of an organization,” Chief Viadero said. The study is being performed at no cost to the town, he said.
Ofc Penna said, “The union is in agreement [with] maintaining an open and positive relationship with the administration of the department and agreed to participate with this survey.
“The survey was comprised of over 100 general questions, which was taken voluntarily, as well as anonymously, via a Survey Monkey [internet] platform on the computer.
“The poll posed questions about working conditions, working relations, self-reflection of current job duties, and the future direction of the department,” he added.
“The survey was then followed up by multiple open forum group discussions, which were grouped by supervisors and patrol/detective staff to obtain a better understanding of employees’ likes, dislikes, or concerns,” he said.
“The union has a very high interest in the results to establish where we are as a workforce, as well as to establish whether or not there are any issues that need to be addressed to continue with our goal of maintaining a positive, effective, and efficient department, “ Ofc Penna said.
Chief Viadero said the study will be made public when the research is completed.
“I think we will have much more to elaborate on, once we obtain the results and establish where we are now, compared to where we were when the first McCabe study was conducted,” Ofc Penna said.