East Palo Alto Police Department
In response to a citizen’s complaint the Grand Jury investigated the East Palo Alto Police Department (EPAPD) with a focus on the department’s efforts to improve its performance, personnel, disciplinary and training practices in accordance with recommendations from PSComm, a police management consulting firm engaged by the City of East Palo Alto in July 2000.
The Grand Jury noted these key findings:
Violent crime continues
to be a problem in East Palo Alto.
Many police department improvement recommendations
from the consultant are still not implemented.
The quality of the force remains questionable.
The leadership of EPAPD does not enforce policies consistently.
A leadership succession plan is not being followed.
Overview of Recommendations:
Is the East Palo Alto Police Department following recommendations of the independent consultant hired to guide the department in its efforts to improve its hiring, firing, recruitment, promotional, disciplinary and training practices and to improve its performance and its image?
In the past the Grand Jury investigated the East Palo Alto Police Department (EPAPD) in response to complaints from citizens of that city. It found a department ill qualified to deal with uncontrolled drug dealing, street crimes and drive-by shootings. Assistance from adjoining law enforcement agencies, California Highway Patrol and the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office (Sheriff) was necessary to assist EPAPD in managing crime and violence in its jurisdiction.
Media coverage of the Police Department's problems caused a serious decline in the department's morale and public image. With the decline of the image of the City of East Palo Alto (City) as a whole, established businesses were anxious to leave and new businesses were reluctant to come to the City. The tax base declined further. The City seemed to be in a downward spiral.
In 2000 the City Council engaged a consultancy, PSComm, LLC of Hayward, California, to study the Police Department and make recommendations to improve the performance of the department. The consultancy issued an assessment of the department in July of that year. The assessment included 71 specific recommendations suggesting improvements in management and supervisory accountability, human resources, workplace environment, technology infrastructure and utilization, training, community policing and problem solving and crime reduction strategies.
The Grand Jury studied the report, "Policing East Palo Alto - the
Organizational Assessment," issued by PSComm, LLC (PSComm) and investigated
how the City and EPAPD responded to the recommendations in the areas of
hiring, firing, recruitment, promotional, disciplinary and training practices.
During the investigation the Grand Jury evaluated personnel records and
policies regarding training and performance, reviewed the Memorandum of
Understanding between the City and the East Palo Alto Police Officers
Association, and researched the San Mateo County and East Palo Alto crime
statistics from the California Department of Justice. The Grand Jury conducted
interviews with PSComm, now Joseph Brann & Associates, LLC (Brann
& Associates), and with the City Management.
Violent crime continues to be a problem in East Palo Alto.
The temporary improvement in the East Palo Alto crime rate 1999 - 2002 could be attributed to the efforts of all assisting law enforcement agencies, the efforts of citizens' watch groups, and the changing demographics over the last ten years that has seen some of the criminal element of the population migrate to other areas. Today residents are dissatisfied with the renewed resurgence of crime and vow to "do whatever it takes to keep the community from reverting to those dark days . . .1" in 1992 when East Palo Alto was the per capita murder capital of the country. Results of a survey of East Palo Alto citizens commissioned by One East Palo Alto Neighborhood Improvement Association and conducted by Empowerment Research dated March 2004 reveals the following public views:
A significant number of residents believe that neighborhood coalitions are effective in addressing crime issues and a third of the community believes the police services are below average.
Many Police Department improvement recommendations from the consultant are still not implemented.
In the Management and Supervisory Accountability section of its assessment of EPAPD, PSComm cites the following that illustrate the poor condition of the department in July 2000:
The significant recommendations made by PSComm involved:
The detailed recommendations made by PSComm in these areas are included in Attachment A.
In September 2001 Brann and Associates issued a progress report on the implementation of recommendations from the PSComm organizational assessment of EPAPD. The progress report cites improvement in some areas and no progress in other areas. Relative to Management and Supervisory
Accountability, it notes that a variety of efforts had been launched to improve the knowledge, skills and abilities of the managers and supervisors, and to ensure adequate managerial oversight of operations. Training standards had been developed, but the training guide had not been updated, and only management employees were receiving training. Ongoing staff shortages were still a problem, but the compensation and benefits package was improved, and hiring criteria were established.
In March 2003 Brann & Associates issued an update to the progress
report noting areas in which no progress had been made and areas in which
"back sliding" occurred where progress had been seen at the
time of the first progress report. In the area of Management and Supervisory
Accountability the report commended management and supervision of resources
and personnel especially in the patrol arena. While there was progress
in development of job skills, more training actions are necessary in order
for management to be effective. Initially there was improvement in completing
performance evaluations and dealing with disciplinary actions in a timely
manner; however, management had declined in their follow-through.
The quality of the force remains questionable.
A review of the personnel records provided by EPAPD2 for its current 36 sworn officers indicates that as late as December 2002 the department continued to hire officers discharged from other police departments and officers who have large gaps in their police work experience. There are four officers currently on the payroll that had been discharged from one or more of their previous police jobs, including one later promoted to lieutenant by EPAPD. There are three officers currently on the payroll that had less than a year's experience when they resigned from a previous police job, and their record shows no further police work for several years prior to being hired by EPAPD. In addition to the gap in police work experience, three of the officers had no training for three and a half years when hired by EPAPD.
Exhibit 1 - Hiring Information
*A Sheriff's Office
California Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) offers training required by law for peace officer qualification and ongoing employment. POST awards professional certificates to recognize peace officer achievement and proficiency. The Basic Certificate is awarded to currently employed full-time peace officers of a POST-participating agency who have satisfactorily completed the prerequisite Basic Course requirement and the employing agency's probationary period. Other certificates are Intermediate, Advanced, Supervisory, Management, Executive, Public Safety Dispatch, Records Supervisor, and Reserve Officer. There are only 11 officers on the force, including the Police Chief, who have more than the Basic Certificate. There are two officers whose records indicate they have been assigned full-time peace officer positions, but have never taken the Regular Basic Training Course. They have taken some reserve training modules.
POST regulations require continuing education for the purpose of maintaining,
updating, expanding, and/or enhancing an individual's knowledge and/or
skills. It is training which exceeds the training required to meet or
requalify entry-level minimum standards. POST regulations state that every
peace officer must satisfactorily complete the Continuing Professional
Training (CPT) requirement of 24 or more hours of training every two years.
For all police officers below the rank of middle management that means
two years from the completion date of the Regular Basic Training Course;
for middle management and above it is based on date appointed or July
1, 2000, whichever is later; for reserve officers it is based on date
appointed or July 1, 1995 (Level I Reserve Officer) and July1, 1999 (Level
II Reserve Officer) whichever is later.
The following exhibit lists pertinent data regarding officers whose training records indicate lapses in meeting CPT requirements, over 40% of the force.
Exhibit 2 - Training Information3
Review of the training records provided by EPAPD indicate that 3 11 officers did not satisfy their most recent full two-year period CPT requirements. Another five5 officers did not meet the CPT requirements in the previous period, but have met the requirement for the current period.
As of January 1, 2002 all police officers below middle management are required to complete 12 hours of Perishable Skills courses (three modules, a minimum of four hours each) and two hours of Communications training in each two-year period as part of CPT. Only one officer has met this criteria by taking all modules.
Records provided showed another nine officers or 25% of the force with
zero for the number of POST certificates (or no record was available)
indicating they have yet to meet the criteria for a Basic Certificate
from POST. Two of these had no additional training since graduating
from police training in 2001. According to POST criteria, those officers
with no certificates should be newer employees who have graduated from
a POST-certified police training program and are currently on new hire
probation, or are not full-time employees. According to the City Personnel
Policies and Procedures, a police recruit is on probation for 18 months.
A lateral and prior service police officer is on probation for 12 months.
Exhibit 3 - Probation Period
Three officer recruits have been on the force longer than 18 months, but have no POST certificate noted. One of these has been on the force over two years. Records also indicate an officer appeared to be on probation nearly three years before receiving the Basic Certificate.
POST also encourages law enforcement agencies to participate in its agency program by agreeing to abide by the standards established by POST. The more than 600 agencies in the POST program are eligible to receive the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training's services and benefits, such as job-related assessment tools, research into improved officer selection standards, management counseling services, the development of new training courses, reimbursement for training, and quality leadership training programs. If it appears a department fails to adhere to the regulations, it may be deemed ineligible to receive these services and benefits. EPAPD is a participating agency.
The overall quality of the force remains low primarily due to lack of a professional development plan, training, and a performance assessment plan with equitable standards for progressive discipline. Upward mobility of officers is blocked by their unwillingness to seek required training independently. Some officers choose to undergo only the minimum training required to maintain the POST Basic Certificate.
Mentoring and management staff development in general is neglected. EPAPD does not have its own detective division, which normally requires more highly trained personnel. The detective function in East Palo Alto is provided by the Sheriff. The Grand Jury was advised that the only current mentoring activity is rotation of some of the department's better officers through temporary assignments working with the Sheriff's detectives to build some detective experience on the force.
There is no agreement for jointly developed goals and objectives between officers and supervisors. Performance evaluations are not current for many of the managers. The department was unable to provide any evidence to the Grand Jury that an evaluation of the Police Chief's performance had been completed in the last five years. There is little evidence that all personnel had received annual written performance evaluations. This is in violation of City personnel policies and the agreement with the police officers' union. The City Personnel Policies and Procedures clearly define the requirement for performance evaluations every twelve months of actual service, and upon termination of service. All performance evaluations are to be forwarded to the Personnel Office. The forms currently used for performance evaluations are outdated, inconsistent with current procedures and do not meet the department's needs.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City and the East Palo Alto Police Officers Association states, "Upon completion of twelve months of actual initial or promotional probationary service, after receiving a satisfactory performance evaluation, a merit increase . . . shall be granted." It continues that each twelve months of actual service thereafter, "each employee receiving a satisfactory performance evaluation shall receive a merit increase."
The MOU also establishes salary adjustments for Intermediate and Advanced Certificates from POST, and longevity pay for officers with ten years continuous service with the City as a motivation to improve professionalism and stability of the force.
The leadership of EPAPD does not enforce policies consistently. The Police Chief has been in this position since 1994 working under an employment contract, and reports to the City Manager. During the past six years the City had several acting, appointed, or contract City Managers. The Police Chief operated semi-autonomously without effective oversight, and some questionable managerial decisions were made during this period.
The Police Chief's handling of personnel matters presents numerous questions relative to the fairness and consistent application of disciplinary action in the department.
An officer of EPAPD continues to work at headquarters while under felony indictment in Santa Clara County for activities prior to being employed by EPAPD. When notified of the indictment of one of his officers, the Police Chief sought advice from the City Attorney regarding the question of the officer's continued employment. The Police Chief was provided three alternatives by counsel:
Since EPAPD is experiencing a shortage of personnel and limited budget, the Police Chief opted to assign the officer to work in the office at EPAPD headquarters. The Grand Jury was advised that it is common practice in law enforcement and the standing practice of this Police Chief in the past, to relieve an accused officer from duty immediately when the mere allegation of wrongdoing by a sworn officer surfaces. The accused officer usually remains on administrative leave pending resolution of the charges. Objections from the community to the Police Chief's decision to keep this officer on-the-job were reported in the local press.
This action raises the question whether another accused officer could have a reasonable expectation of similar treatment. However, the Police Chief handled a subsequent disciplinary matter quite differently. It was recently reported in the local press that a sergeant of EPAPD was placed on paid administrative leave pending the results of an internal investigation of inappropriate police behavior, which was estimated to take at least two weeks.
In a different instance the Police Chief followed the hiring criteria recommended by the consultant. An officer who was fired for cause sued the City for wrongful termination, and was ordered reinstated. The reinstatement is on hold since the officer allowed his POST certification to lapse. Before being reinstated the Police Chief has required the officer be POST re-certified by the State of California and pass specified physical and mental suitability examinations.
A leadership succession plan is not being followed. The consultant recommended in 2000 that immediate attention be given to creating and filling a Captain's position. The Grand Jury was advised the current pool of officers in the department offers no qualified candidates for possible replacement of the current Police Chief. The Grand Jury was led to believe the new Captain's position had a written job description and a requisition had been issued with requirements for a college degree that would preclude any current EPAPD officers from qualifying for that position. It seemed that the interviewing of external candidates was about to commence. Neither has taken place. The Grand Jury learned the personnel department has no such job description or requisition and that the City intends to hire a Human Resources Director before hiring a Police Captain.
The search to fill this position has not been given top priority. Funding for this position is the first cut volunteered by the Police Chief when budget cuts are necessary. There has been little pressure from the City Council or City Manager to fill the position.
The drug dealing, violent crime and drive-by shootings that were commonplace in East Palo Alto several years ago have declined somewhat, but remain at a critical level. Assistance from adjoining police departments, California Highway Patrol and the Sheriff has been and continues to be helpful to EPAPD in suppressing the drug dealing and the resultant violence. With the decline in drug trafficking the community has attracted new businesses and tax revenues have increased. Now the City is better able to provide an attractive salary and benefits package and should be able to raise the requirements and qualifications for new hires for the department.
Violence is creeping upward again. The crime rate in the City continues to be a primary issue of the citizens who have voiced their concern in the past to the local press blaming the Chief of Police's inability to effectively manage the department and appropriately discipline his staff. If the City Council and the Police Chief had been more diligent in implementing all of the PSComm recommendations from July 2000, it is likely the department would have been better equipped to control the crime level.
The EPAPD must upgrade the qualifications of its present personnel. The Police Chief continues to hire officers who have been discharged from other law enforcement agencies. Nearly half of the force has lapsed in meeting CPT ongoing requirements in the last five years; all but one have failed to meet the CPT specific course requirements mandated as of January 1, 2002; 25% of the force has not received basic certification; and management seems uninterested in enforcing training standards. If the POST Commission finds that EPAPD is not meeting regulations regarding Continuing Professional Training, it is possible EPAPD would no longer be eligible for training cost reimbursement.
Incentive pay for Intermediate and Advanced POST Certificates seems to be ineffective in stimulating the force to seek advanced credentials.
Training records indicate that either the Basic Certificates from POST have not been issued once a probation period is met, or that officers remain on probation longer than required. It is not clear whether officers are being kept on probation longer because of problems with performance or that the EPAPD does not update personnel records accurately and in a timely manner.
Merit increases are to be awarded only if a satisfactory performance evaluation has been filed. Current performance evaluations could not be located for many personnel. Merit increases are being awarded without documented performance evaluations being presented to the employees and filed with their personnel records.
The current Police Chief is ineffective in implementing the Management and Supervisory Accountability recommendations made by the consultant.
The actions of the Police Chief lack consistency in how standards are
applied and procedures are followed. This vacillation can cause uncertainty
among employees, leading to morale issues. The perception in the department
that the Police Chief shows favoritism when taking disciplinary action
can further erode respect from the officers.
1. The City Council should aggressively seek qualified candidates for the budgeted Police Captain's position and fill it within 90 days with someone who has demonstrated leadership and motivational skills, and has potential to succeed the current Police Chief.
2. The City Council should ensure that adequate financial resources and staff are allocated to enable the East Palo Alto Police Department to fully implement the recommendations of the organizational assessment provided by PSComm, LLC/Joseph Brann and Associates, LLC.
3. By August 1, 2004 the City Council should provide the Grand Jury current status and completion date or targeted completion date for all Management and Supervisory Accountability recommendations made by PSComm for improvement of the East Palo Alto Police Department listed on Attachment A.
4. The City Council should require the Police Chief to implement the recommendations on Attachment A and update the status of these recommendations and report to the City Council quarterly.
5. The City Council should immediately:
6. By August 1, 2004 the City Council should provide the Grand Jury current status and completion date or targeted completion date for all Management and Supervisory Accountability recommendations made by PSComm for improvement of the East Palo Alto Police Department listed on Attachment A.
7. The City Council should determine the "best practices" regarding the continued employment of officers under felony indictment or internal investigation and require that EPAPD follow those practices consistently, fairly and without favoritism.
8. The City Council should require the Police Chief to work with the East Palo Alto Police Officers' Association to adhere to the following:
EPAPD lacks an experienced or skilled management staff.
1The San Jose Mercury News, "East Palo Alto Leaders Vow
to Fight an Upturn in Violence," March 29, 2004.