Study: ECPD must improve maturity, trust

January 04, 2002|By RUDY YNIGUEZ, Staff Writer

An independent evaluation of the El Centro Police Department concludes the department must improve its maturity and trust.

The zero-cost study was conducted by the Sacramento-based California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training. It was completed in September and then presented to the City Council.

The study was prompted by letters to the city manager, to the editor of this newspaper and from talk in the Police Department, according to City Manager Abdel Salem.

Some of those who wrote letters were critical of Police Chief Ray Loera. Others supported him.

"We thought that maybe the best approach was to get an outside agency that is familiar with police departments to give us their opinion and positive recommendations," Salem said. "The most positive thing here is there are a number of recommendations that we are gearing up toward. However, it will take some time to overcome the negative perceptions of the department."


That is a perception that Salem says does exist.

How long it will take to implement the study's recommendations will depend on the resources — money — available in many instances, Salem said.

Salem was asked to comment on one particular conclusion in the study, which says, "The city manager does not have confidence in the chief of police because of his lack of experience."

"Actually, I do have confidence in his abilities," Salem said. "I think the chief has tremendous abilities."

What Loera needs, according to Salem, is the further development of his managerial skills, despite the years of experience Loera had in coming up through the ranks. Salem said he knew that when he appointed Loera as chief.

Salem also said the department's troubles stem from a lack of resources for programs that could have precluded some of the study's conclusions and that the department is a relatively young one in personnel.

"The overall detriment is a lack of resources," he said, adding the lack of resources and growing problems are not uncommon in other cities.

Salem and Loera agreed the study's recommendations will be prioritized and then implemented gradually.

Loera said a committee was formed that includes a cross-section of the department. The committee will prioritize the recommendations.

"There are some issues that will need more work than others," Loera said, adding that some of the study's findings were not unexpected. "I think overall, it's a constructive report that gives us some guidelines. Overall, it's a good report."

Loera was asked to comment on one particular conclusion in the study, which says, "The chief of police feels the city manager allows members of the Police Department too much access and, in turn, weakens his authority to manage the organization."

Loera said under city policy, when dealing with disciplinary issues, the city manager hears appeals to decisions made by the police chief before those appeals go to the city's personnel review board.

Loera said he would like that changed. He said he would like to have the city manager's position removed from the Police Department's appeal process, with any appeals to the chief's decisions going directly to the review board.

Loera said it would make the chief's job more effective.

"Ultimately, it's up to (Salem) to decide that," Loera said, and that such a change is not high on his priority list.

The study recommends the chief be given the authority he seeks.

On another issue, the study recommends certain reductions in certain supervisorial personnel.

Loera said any such changes will take time.

"My philosophy from day one is this is an open police department," Loera said, meaning a department with no intention of hiding anything. "Absolutely, there are issues here that need to be corrected."

Meanwhile, Mayor Larry Grogan said the 100-page report's recommendations will require a certain amount of time to implement and he expects periodic updates.

"It's got to be a project in progress," he said.

>> Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.

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