PRINCETON: Consultant: Police need to have chief

A study of Princeton’s Police Department has resulted in a recommendation that officials promote someone from within the department to serve as the chief of police.

By Jennifer Kohlhepp, Staff Writer
   A study of Princeton’s Police Department has resulted in a recommendation that officials promote someone from within the department to serve as the chief of police.
   The study, conducted by the Rogers Group, said the township must create stability of leadership within the department and goes on to state that stability and detailed planning can be achieved with the development of a strategic plan that provides the organization with a roadmap for success at one-, three- and five-year intervals.
   The Princeton Police Department Organizational Health and Culture Assessment is a pro-active step taken by the Princeton Council to identify the cultural identity of the agency, and its impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of the organization.
   The opportunities born from this effort to uncover and analyze the complex internal and external dynamics that impact upon the operations of the agency will undoubtedly enhance performance, reduce conflict and assist with the management of the new department, according to Frank Rodgers, president of the Rodgers Group.
   The Rodgers Group contract that was awarded in July, authorized not to exceed an amount of $14,495, according to Deputy Clerk Kathleen Brzezynski.
   The study comes on the heels of the consolidation of the Princeton Township and Princeton Borough police departments and the retirement under pressure of former Chief David Dudeck.
   ”The consolidation has raised the anxiety of the agency work force,” the assessment states. “This can be mitigated by regular communication of goals and objectives and positively reinforcing contributions members make toward them.”
   The 83-page report concludes with 11 recommendations, including promoting a chief from within and the development of a strategic plan by an external entity such as the Rodgers Group.
   ”We believe this to be critical to finalize the transformation of your department,” Mr. Rodgers said.
   Mr. Rodgers said attempting to inject a police director instead of a police chief would erode the progress the police department has made to date.
   Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller said naming a police chief makes sense to her and she supports the idea but noted “every chief we thought was really great in the last five years or so or even longer has left under less than ideal circumstances.”
   Rodgers said the Police Department has gone through a lot of changes in the recent past and needs stability.
   ”Interjecting someone new … I’m hard pressed to find a rationale for that,” Mr. Rodgers said.
   He also said a police chief can do a lot of things that a police director can’t.
   ”It’s absolutely not necessary (to hire a public safety or police director),” Mr. Rodgers said. “You would be squandering a bit of the victory you’re currently enjoying.”
   Other recommendations in the report include developing formal and informal internal communication strategies that support and reinforce organizational priorities, establishing initiatives and programs that support the department’s desire to provide services the community desires and providing team analysis and individual coaching sessions that use DiSC, which is a leading personal assessment tool used by more than 40 million people to improve worker productivity, teamwork and communication.
   Furthermore, the study recommends repeating a culture assessment at one-year, three-year and five-year intervals, giving police the support and information they need to be effective in an ever-changing environment and isolating indecision or conflict occurring outside the control of the department to potentially insulate the emotions of department members from the collateral issues and anxiety.
   Councilwoman Jo Butler said there is a thread of the classic blue line in the report — “a little bit of closing of the ranks” and “criticism of the governing body.”
   Mr. Rodgers said the study included focus groups with members from outside of the police department.
   ”It’s not accurate to say all or most of that is from the police department,” he said.
   He said the governing body should have the police department submit police reports and should have a representative at council meetings. He said speaking about problems as they arise is healthy and that the governing body has to let officers know “the police department doesn’t run the show, the police department reports to the show.”
   Other recommendations included creating a purposeful and formulized leadership and mentoring program to account for potential attrition of seasoned personnel. The report also suggests developing supervision, teambuilding, motivation and effective communication training programs so that a foundation of competency can be established for officers and detectives who may have to step into roles that are vacated through retirements as well as providing internal systems that reward officer performance and promoting programs and initiatives to better engage officers in the community.
   Mr. Rodgers said the study “truly is forward thinking on your part. I’m unfamiliar with any other community doing anything as comprehensive as this.”
   ”The value of this report is self-awareness and knowing what the work force looks like,” he said.
   He also said the study would prove invaluable for future leaders of the police department who will have a comprehensive look at their work force and will be more efficient managers as a result.
   Mayor Liz Lempert thanked the Rodgers Group for their work.
   ”This has been a really useful exercise for the department to go through,” the mayor said. “The police department is a great success story of consolidation; doing more and spending less. We’re proud of the work they’re doing this year.”
   The mayor said the council has to set goals at the beginning of 2014 and would start working on implementing the suggestions made in the report as soon as possible.