To rise from the ranks of the good to the great, the St. Paul Police Department must re-commit itself to the practice of community policing, an outside study suggested Wednesday.
Department managers speak of dedication to police-community crime-fighting, yet too little of a patrol officer's time -- only 13.9 percent -- appears devoted to such activities, according to a consultant's report commissioned by the city.
Mayor Chris Coleman said the assessment by Berkshire Advisors, Inc., of Bay Village, Ohio, was proof that the city has a police department, of which residents can be proud.
But he and Deputy Mayor Ann Mulholland agreed the Police Department must rededicate itself to a clearer community-policing strategy that Mulholland said should see more cops walking beats and working with block clubs and others to resolve neighborhood concerns.
"This blueprint really dials us in to some new directions as to how we will get to true excellence across the board," said Police Chief John Harrington.
The $176,000 best practices assessment was one of two police-related reports presented Wednesday to the City Council -- the other involved Republican National Convention security -- and it follows a more explosive audit issued two years ago of the city's Fire Department. That report advocated closing three of 16 firehouses and called for mending the "internal crisis" then dividing union members and their now-former fire chief.
The union that represents St. Paul's police officers took Wednesday's study in stride. "There is nothing in there that's going to shock anybody," said Dave Titus, president of the St. Paul Police Federation.
However, the report, which now goes to an implementation team of city managers and union representatives, recommends possible cutbacks to two high-profile operations -- the canine unit and the horse patrol -- and also spells out internal concerns over Harrington's leadership style.
According to the study, Harrington is more willing than predecessor Bill Finney to delegate authority to subordinates, and to decentralize his department's leadership. But, the report added, his team has failed to set clear performance goals and expectations, or to provide enough support and training to managers.
Interviews conducted within and outside the department revealed that many people believed the department lacked a "firm hand" and appeared to be just "drifting along," the study said.
Mulholland said that the mayor's office and police administration sought to answer some concerns regarding the decentralized approach by providing funding for 2009 that would allow six to seven officers to be promoted to the rank of sergeant to help provide "better management of the troops," she said.
Those moves, however, as well as plans to hire 14 new officers have been put on hold because of state and city budget pressures, Mulholland said.
The hirings would be in addition to the 54 sworn officers already hired during Coleman's tenure, and would bring the department to about 614 officers -- a level that the deputy mayor deemed about right for St. Paul.
The Berkshire Advisors report advocates shifting about 17 officers from patrol operations to divisions responsible for major crimes and investigations.
Anthony Lonetree • 651-298-1545
INCREASE the amount of time an officer has available for "proactive activities" to about one-third of his or her work time.
ESTABLISH problem-oriented policing units consisting of one sergeant, six officers and a clerk in each of the city's three patrol districts.
ELIMINATE two-person patrol squads and move solely to one-person squads, action that also would require increasing the size of the department's fleet.
REDEPLOY nine of 21 canine officer positions.
DISCONTINUE the horse patrol or scale it back to summer use.
REASSIGN some officers who currently staff task forces to a new initiative that would focus on apprehending career criminals.