Officers are by nature distrusting individuals, as we see the worst of what humanity has to offer. Day in and day out officers go to work knowing that at any moment they could make the ultimate sacrifice.
However, as of late the concerns are not coming from the outside. They are coming from our own department.
I have spoken many times to the chief about the distrust officers have of upper management. He claims he understands it and is working to build the trust with the rank and file. I wrote an article last month regarding traffic stops and why they are down across the city, and this is true with most police agencies.
In this day and time when everyone wants “transparency,” we see that it only goes one direction. The department started this Being First Program to change the culture of the police department, yet I truly feel that our culture was not the issue. It is the distrust that our officers have with the leadership of the department.
It all started with the discipline and how it affected morale throughout HPD. Whether real or perceived, the discipline that was being administered for minor violations led to this distrust. To be fair, the current administration is trying to change things, but it is all about the messaging.
Officers at many of the stations are told that because of call volume and manpower issues that they are not allowed to partner up. Even though the Chief said, “if at all possible” officers should be allowed to ride two-person units.
Now here we are with the next latest and greatest drain on patrol officers. The chief has put out his new one-traffic-stop-a-day productivity level for everyone in a marked patrol car. I can understand this in CRU, DRT and other proactive units. But when we are so short-handed that officers can’t ride two-men because of calls holding and response times, traffic stops are the last thing on the priority list.
How can we trust a department that will say that you must keep response times down but still conduct your one traffic stop a day?
Again, let me stress that this is a messaging issue. Had the chief simply added a line that stated, “Officers should do everything possible to be proactive, but supervisors MUST use common sense when looking at an officer’s productivity standards.”
There will be those supervisors who are by the book and if you do not conduct a traffic stop a day, they will downgrade your JPR, even if you ran 300 calls last month.
We all know them! We encourage officers to be proactive, but that does not always equate to productive. Most of our officers are out on patrol every day being productive, running calls, and serving the community.
Mandated traffic stops will not help to build community trust. This requirement very well could be detrimental to the relationships that the department expects us to build.