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Study says Beverly Police Department floundering
By Chas Sisk
Staff writer


BEVERLY — Beverly police suffer from weak leadership and lack of accountability, and patrolmen do too little to solve crimes, an independent consultant has found following a three-month investigation.

The Beverly Police Department is floundering — with no sense of direction and no set goals — because leaders have no long-range plans and rely on their intuition rather than crime data, according to the consultant's report released yesterday. Patrol officers are also spending too much time responding to calls and too little time proactively fighting crime, the report said.

"The department is currently operating with little guidance or direction," the report said. "The department must focus on making improvements to basic managerial approaches."

The department has plenty of personnel, the report said — enough to make itself into a top-notch department. But its aimlessness, some of which can be attributed to contractual obligations and a reluctance by officers to give up longtime practices, is holding it back.

The findings are part of a 172-page report by Matrix Consulting Group, a Palo Alto, Calif., firm that specializes in analyzing police departments. The firm made its observations after visiting the department, interviewing half of its staff and distributing confidential surveys.

The firm offered a number of criticisms, including:

• Beverly police write too few traffic tickets.

• The department does not consistently follow up on crimes.

• Officers do not get enough training.

• The headquarters is in bad shape.

The report shows that the department needs to improve in several areas, said Mayor William Scanlon, who commissioned the report. Scanlon declined to elaborate, saying he wants to give Police Chief John Cassola 30 to 45 days to develop a plan to implement the recommendations.

"I think we're really right at the beginning stage," Scanlon said.

Cassola and Patrolman John McCarthy, the department's union representative, did not respond to calls seeking comment. Both sat on the steering committee that worked with Matrix on the report.

Random patrols

Scanlon commissioned the Matrix study after Jason Beals — a police officer's son — murdered his girlfriend and then killed himself last year. Three days before the crime, Beverly police had been called to Corbett's home during a violent confrontation with Beals. Officer Raymond Beals, who was working as a dispatcher that night, took the 911 call and left the station to handle it himself. He never reported it in the police log.

Beals was never disciplined; he spent a month on paid leave before being allowed to retire.

Matrix does not address that situation directly. In the report, the firm does call for the department to hire civilian dispatchers, but the reasoning is that they can be paid less than unformed officers. Matrix also recommends giving officers more specialized training.

Much more of the report is devoted to management and its relationship with rank-and-file officers. One problem is that too much time is spent cruising the town on random patrols. According to Matrix, Beverly police spend only about 40 percent of work hours responding to calls.

That means, theoretically, that they have plenty of time to write tickets, walk the beat and investigate routine crimes, the report said. But for those things to happen, managers have to set goals and come up with a plan for reaching them.

That might not be easy: According to the report, managers frequently resist setting standards because they fear that officers will file a labor grievance.

"Bargaining agreements serve as a major focus of management and supervisory decision-making," the report said.

More ticketing

Matrix said the department needs to shift four of its 49 patrolmen to other duties. One officer should be designated the department's crime analyst. His duties would be to comb the department's computer system for crime trends, write reports and respond to requests for information.

The other three officers, Matrix says, should be transferred to the Traffic Division. Last year, Beverly police wrote 2,289 traffic citations, or 19 for every accident injury or fatality. To cut down on accident injuries, police would need to write twice as many, the firm said.

The report also criticizes the Police Department's handling of cash and evidence. Citing a few examples — beer left outside the evidence room, receipts that were not recorded into the department's books — the firm said police have to be more diligent about locking up evidence and keeping good books.

But the report also mentions some areas in which the department is doing well. Beverly's Narcotics Division has a good relationship with neighboring communities and has aggressively pursued cases despite limited resources, the report said. Matrix also noted that morale is high despite a cramped and crumbling police station.

New headquarters

The firm concluded the report with a call for new police headquarters. The department has about half as much space as it needs, and maintenance problems are cutting into productivity.

According to the report, one employee didn't report to work at all for the entire time Matrix consultants were in Beverly because the employee had inhaled noxious fumes inside the station. The facility was among the worst the consultants had ever seen. Matrix recommended building a new headquarters at the Cummings Center, at a cost of $5 million to $6 million
 

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No surprise hear. I don't know anything about Beverly but I don't believe there has ever been a police dept. that has received a good grade from one of these studies. I would wager to guess that most of Beverly Police Dept's problems start at city hall. Maybe I am wrong, but in my experience when city hall tries to run a police department they will destroy the department. My current department has just this problem. They don't let the chief do his job. They hold his reappointment over his head. ( the chiefs job is not civil circus but rank and file is. \:D/
 

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I work for the city, EMA not PD though. Sometimes in the course of my dutys I have to go there. I can honestly say that the station is a rathole. It is small and crammed between city hall and a restaurnt. Hopefully this study will hammer home to mayor cheapo that they need a new station.
 

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Those studies always say the same thing and they are critical if the officer is not spending their full shift out there doing something...These people treat Policing like it's corporate America..As if corporate America is working their full 8 hrs....Most people I know get an hr of trouble free lunch, and spend half the day on aol instant messenger...but if a cop isn't doing something constatly in their 8 hrs they are a typical lazy cop....
 

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A Central Mass Pd had their TV taken away after they had a study done. :( But I think that was the only recommendation that was carried out.
 

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I would be interested in seeing how many of these studies have resulted in positive reviews and assesments. These agencies come into the department, review stats (which we all know do not tell the entire story sometimes), talk to department employees, and do their "study". Most if not all of the time there is always something wrong and they leave with their $30K or more, tell the town fathers the obvious, and it results in a negative article for some up and coming media leach to make a name for themselves by bashing the police.

I wonder how much the consultants who do this work take into account the social nature of the department. The social environment and morale varies from department to department depending on numerous variables. Some of the issues that need to be addressed seem beyond control of the study, and often are values/ideas/issues that have been effecting the department for years, if not decades.

I do not see how these studies can be effective without taking that into account. The culture, negative or positive, may have been effected by decisions in years past by Management, Unions, and Selectment/City Councils. Due to many of the problems being rooted in the past, the people performing the evaluation may not have access to all the information about the situation and politics of the department/town at the time which resulted in decisions that had an adverse effect on the department.

That being said, these police department studies from corporate America seem to be closed minded at best and offer minimal solutions to solving problems such as writing more V's, being "active" every minute of the shift, or some similar suggestion. Unless there is a really good Chief/Deputy/LT that is a good leader with some vision, in most cases, I would guess they probably lead to more bitterness and worse morale within the department because afterwards there are always the knee-jerk reactions. And then and it goes on and on and on. Well, just my :2c:.
 
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