Union, Chief Dolan trade major blows over new police evaluation system

kjahner@newsobserver.comJuly 5, 2012 

GRIEVANCE.070512.TI

Raleigh Police officer Trey Walters speaks to media reporters at Teamsters Local 391 Raleigh Union Hall Thursday, July 5, 2012. He and more than 100 officers filed grievances with the department's grading system that evaluates their performance.

TAKAAKI IWABU — tiwabu@newsobserver.com

The war of words between the Raleigh police union – which filed 100 grievances over a new performance evaluation system – and Chief Harry Dolan escalated Thursday, with the two sides espousing starkly different assessments of the new program.

Both sides agree the Performance Based Management measures a variety of police activities. Both sides also say a pure quota system would be an insult to the field of law enforcement. Beyond that, the two sides have fundamentally different views.

Teamsters Local 391 doesn’t want to count activities to determine performance and doesn’t feel like it can count on its chief.

Raleigh Police Department has 777 sworn officers, said police spokesman Jim Sughrue. The union represents about 90 percent of those officers, according to Chip Roth, a spokesman for Teamsters Local 391.

Trey Walters, speaking for the Raleigh officers who are Teamsters, claimed the Priority Performance Measures portion of PBM will spit out a number that will be the entire basis for evaluation, ignoring quality in favor of quantity.

“We thought for sure it was so broken, that it would never go into place,” Walters said of pilot experiments with the program.

Dolan, meanwhile, maintains that supervisors will still be the ones making personnel recommendations and decisions. He denounces quotas as harshly as the union, and says he’s been working with officers regarding concerns with the system.

In Dolan’s corner is the creator of the system, D.J. Van Meter, who released a statement bashing the Union’s assertions, saying nothing in its grievance accurately describes the program or its intended use.

“Irrespective of purpose or intent, this grievance contains so many inaccurate, vague and outright false and libelous statements that it is next to impossible to address them in any intelligent manner,” the statement said.

The grievances fall under state personnel statutes, therefore are not public record.

Measures aren’t new

This isn’t the first time RPD has used numbers to measure performance. The Top Cops system – their current evaluation module which is also widely used across the country – also takes raw activity counts. Dolan said PPM does a better job of catching a wider variety of police activities.

Walters said the key difference is that Top Cops makes up only a small portion of their evaluation but the PBM system uses its PPM formula as the entire basis evaluation.

Dolan said he understands the trepidation about the new system. Created to address skepticism of an old system that rated 90 percent of cops “outstanding,” PBM would show 80 percent of RPD officers to be in an acceptable range.

Officers with lagging data would have time to work with superiors to improve their performance. Most would reach acceptable measures, he predicted, while some – a remaining 5 percent or so – might be better off working in another field.

July 1 was the first day these numbers would affect most officers’ evaluations, but escalating pilots of the program saw traffic citations actually decrease 21 percent for the first six months of 2012 against the first six months of 2011, undercutting the quota argument.

“I think the more people get into it, the more people will understand,” he said. “The greatest strength of the system is that it’s quota free.”

Question of morale

Walters, 23, who has been an RPD officer over three years, says the system has driven down morale and his fellow officers’ confidence in Dolan has been severely – and possibly irreparably – damaged.

Dolan, however, says he’s talked with many officers about the program, but the union has not addressed these recent concerns directly with him before holding Thursday’s news conference. He says he has an open door for anyone and that any suggestion otherwise is false.

The union sees things differently, accusing Dolan of ignoring many complaints about the system. Walters, while not privy to Dolan’s meetings with superior officers, said it was reported back to him that the chief was dismissive of complaints.

“As a matter of fact, the chief has used a system of intimidation to guard himself from input of rank and file officers,” said Roth, the spokesman for the Local 391 Teamsters union.

Walters said he has seen officers pulled off their regular beat by a supervisor and assigned to a task that would increase numbers in a certain category. Also, he said that busting a marijuana user counts the same as a arrest in a major drug investigation.

He said the Teamsters plan to file more grievances next week.

Dolan, however, praised the work of Raleigh police, calling it the best major metro police force in the country. He said lowered crime rates were testament to the talent on the force, and he expects those efforts to continue.

But he also blasted the scare tactic of distorting the rules and creating a false impression that officers would be pulling people over to fill out their numbers. He said he has never viewed law enforcement that way and has always emphasized and given prominent recognition to quality work.

“I really think they’ve handled this wrong. It was ill-advised and ill-conceived,” he said. “They have to work to make amends to their members, they have to make amends to this community for these scare tactics ... they don’t have to make amends with me.”

Jahner: 919-829-4822

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