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Mocksville police embracing assessment

By Jeanna Baxter White

BeauDigital for

Town of Mocksville

The Mocksville Police Department has finished implementing the most urgent recommendations and is working to complete the rest of the objectives detailed in an independent assessment released in October, reports Town Manager Matt Settlemyer.

“The police department has taken ownership of the assessment and views it as an opportunity to enhance the professionalism and create a positive culture shift in the department,” said Settlemyer. “Our hope is that the public will continue to see positive results from our improvements and recognize the police department’s commitment to the community and their safety.”

Developmental Associates was retained at the Aug. 20 meeting of the Mocksville Board of Commissioners to assist the town with a staffing and performance assessment of the department. The review was completed by retired police chiefs Pat Bazemore and Tom Moss who interviewed all officers as well as residents in the community, compared staffing levels to other similar size towns in North Carolina, and evaluated department procedures and policies.

The report focused on improving the communication, efficiency and accountability for officers and staff at every level, and listed several immediate, short-range, mid-range, and long-term goals. The report stated that most of the problems in the department were created prior to Pat Reagan being named chief.

“Our department appreciates the feedback from Chief Bazemore and Chief Moss and we believe their input will help our agency continue its progressive development and be better prepared for the future,” said Mocksville Police Chief Pat Reagan. “I was already considering some of their recommendations prior to the assessment, so to have validation from two veteran chiefs on the direction the department needed to go has been very helpful.”

After three months of implementation,  Reagan provided an update on the recommendations that have been addressed and a timeline for the rest. He began with those the report listed as most urgent.

• Improve communication with employees to positively impact the effectiveness and efficiency of the department’s operations and to improve employee morale.

“This has been addressed through more frequent and substantial communication within the department,” said Reagan. “Operational information and staff recognition is distributed to the entire staff and routine discussions are facilitated at all staff levels. While these actions are a start at repairing the culture of the department, additional work is needed along with ongoing communication to ensure conditions move forward.

“The organizational assessment also recommended updating the current department policy manual and providing immediate access to the manual for the employees. Since then, staff members have been working with an outside law enforcement legal organization (Lexipol) to update the policy manual to include current federal, state, and local policies that affect the department.  All staff have also been added to the system through their department email address where they can access, search, and accept daily tests on the current department policy manual.  Staff are made aware when changes are made and what policies are affected.  This is an ongoing process and will require constant review to prevent the manual from becoming outdated and stagnant.”

• Improve background investigations on new police officers, especially those coming from other agencies.

“Current administration adheres to a routine, documented process that involves only trained background investigators. All applicants are thoroughly evaluated and a final recommendation is made to the chief. This recommendation, as well as the entire background investigation,  is discussed and an appropriate recommendation is made. A similar, structured process is also in place for internal promotions to alleviate any social influence or perception. This process is ongoing and modifications may occur as new policies, procedures, and technologies occur.”

• Assess potential violations that could create liability for the town and department.

Reagan said this recommendation was in response to two identified incidents that occurred under the previous administration. At the recommendation of the consultants, both incidents were presented to outside agencies for further investigation.

In the first instance, an employee, as a volunteer for the SAFE program, used personal funds to purchase a jail commissary card for an inmate participating in the program, Reagan said. The purchase later resulted in confusion over the expenditure. The Davie County Sheriff’s Office presented information that no criminal investigation was being conducted on the employee as a result of their actions but made a recommendation that the department review internal policies on employee actions while on duty and reprimand those who violate policy.

The second incident involved an older weapon gifted to the department by a resident that appeared to be missing. The NC SBI was contacted to consider an investigation. At the suggestion of the special agent in charge (SAC), an internal investigation was conducted including interviews and written statements.  During the investigation, a thorough inspection of all storage equipment was conducted to determine if the item was missing, misplaced, or possibly hidden from view.

An inspection of a locked, key-coded safe revealed a collapsed shelf. Upon removal of the shelf, the missing item was located in its original state.  The location of the item is consistent with the interviews and statements and corroborates the original statements that the item was overlooked and never missing from the department’s possession, he said.

Reagan said that both issues are considered closed and no additional investigation will occur. “It is our responsibility to ensure that all actions are above-board, and if not, that we take appropriate action.”

Short-Term Recommendations

Most of the short-term recommendations have been completed.

Developmental Associates conducted a staffing analysis of sworn personnel. It was determined that Mocksville had sufficient sworn staff to effectively police the community as compared to similarly-sized communities, but the number of personnel assigned to command level positions was excessive.

According to Reagan, staff modifications have been made and vacant command-level positions will be reassigned to a staff level to assist with coverage where needed. Organizational changes have occurred to provide better supervision at all staffing hours.

The perceived conflict of interest related to property and evidence management and control has been eliminated by transitioning another employee to the position of evidence technician and providing necessary training for that position.  An internal inventory (audit) is being concluded to allow for the full transition of the position from the former evidence tech to the current evidence tech.

Reagan explained that task re-assignments have also been conducted for positions from lieutenant and above. Tasks such as policy review, quartermaster, grant writing, community outreach, community events, parade implementation, firearms inventory and training coordination have been assigned to these personnel in addition to their community response and patrol duties.  Front-line supervisors have been assigned specific tasks related to their skills, including Governor’s Highway Safety Program Coordinator, RADAR/LIDAR specialist, Field Training Officer/Police Training Officer Coordinator, and Crisis Intervention Team Officer in Charge. “These specific assignments help to equalize the workload and development of all team members.”

An audit of the confidential fund used in narcotics has been conducted and recorded with the results matching annual budget allocations.

Medium-Range Recommendations

Recommendations for the time period beginning in 2020 are under way and include increased interaction between the chief and the staff.  In addition to facilitating meetings with command staff, weekly meetings are held with front-line supervisors to discuss potential issues, relationships, staff concerns, and department policies. An initial meeting with the staff was held in December and future meetings at the staff level are scheduled monthly.

An old office has been transformed into a conference room that can be used for meetings, training, or discussions that require privacy.

Policy updates are ongoing. Several policies have been developed, drafted, and approved for implementation. Staff continues to work with the legal consultant to ensure policies are current and meet federal, state and local guidelines.  This is an ongoing process and will require staff to constantly monitor and update department policies and new case law, court decisions, and general statues as they are developed.

Long-Range Recommendations

The remaining recommendations are scheduled for July 2020 and beyond. These recommendations include staff development, command staff development, and executive development. Since these recommendations involve outside resources, they are being discussed with town management for appropriate funding and implementation, Reagan said.  Recommendations concerning community surveys, website development and annual reports will be addressed at a later time. “These recommendations are extremely helpful for assessing the department’s effectiveness in the community and may identify areas where additional outreach or resources are needed.”

“We have taken these recommendations seriously. I  appreciate that the assessment has provided a valuable blueprint with tangible action items that we are implementing to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of our department,”  Reagan said.