Question: How many police officers does it take to protect Tredyffrin Township residents?

The presentation (or rather the non-presentation) of the police operations study by ICMA (International City/County Management Association) consultant Dr. Paul O’Connell, at Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, was an embarrassment.  O’Connell, a college professor, was unable to attend the meeting; therefore, the plan was to “Skype” him in electronically from Connecticut.  The Skype attempt failed miserably, with the audience and supervisors unable to understand a single word from the professor.  Township staff attempted to correct the situation by connecting O’Connell via the phone line.  Although a slight improvement, we all still struggled to understand O’Connell.  Any questions from the Board or the citizens had to be transmitted via the phone.

I found the entire exercise last night a waste of time; certainly not worthy of a $49K consulting price tag.  However, I think I have it figured out – O’Connell didn’t need to attend the Board of Supervisors meeting.  In fact, I don’t think O’Connell or any of the other associated researchers at ICMA, needed to ever visit Tredyffrin Township.

Why?  If you read ICMA’s 92-page report, its length and its charts can impress you.  Don’t get me wrong, I think we are very fortunate to live in a community that has such a hard-working and caring police department But it struck me odd last night that O’Connell repeatedly spoke about the police superintendent (never once referring to Tony Giaimo by name) and the township’s police department being the ‘best in the country’.  On what basis, did O’Connell reach this conclusion?  A little research today indicates that O’Connell’s glowing words for Tredyffrin’s police officers are standard fare contained in ICMA’s police and fire department reports coast-to-coast.

Executive summary on Tredyffrin Township Police Department excerpt –

Based on our review, it is our opinion that the TTPD is a highly professional, well-managed police agency. Members of the department of all ranks and positions demonstrate a high degree of professionalism and dedication to the agency and the community.

A sampling from other ICMA police operations reports:

  • Executive Summary — report on Grand Rapids Police Department

Based on our review, it is our opinion that the GRPD is a highly professional, well-managed police agency. Members of the department of all ranks and positions demonstrate a high degree of professionalism and dedication to the agency and the community. The information management system developed and implemented in the department is beyond compare in contemporary law enforcement.

  • Executive Summary – report on Beaufort, South Carolina Police Department

ICMA found that the majority of sworn and civilian personnel of the Beaufort Police Department (BPD) are sincere, dedicated individuals who genuinely care about the community and the quality of life within it.

  • Executive Summary – report on Dunedin, Florida Police Department

After a comprehensive review of the services provided to the City of Dunedin by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, it is the unanimous opinion of the members of the reviewing team that the residents of the city are receiving outstanding law enforcement services from the Sheriff’s Office.

ICMA’s cut-and-paste approach to their consulting reports further continues into their recommendations. The continual #1 recommendation, seen in many of ICMA’s reports as a way to improve an already well-performing organization, was to change the current staffing model.   ICMA praised police departments across the country as “highly professional and well-managed”, and then adds, that with a tweak of the staffing schedule, police departments could magically decrease personnel.

From ICMA’s Wyoming, Michigan Police Department study, I read “… The WPD should change its current patrol-staffing model. Employing 10-hour tours in the current configuration is inefficient and should be abandoned in favor of a more flexible model that matches personnel resources to demand.” 

Sound familiar?

Whether it was California, Michigan, Florida or Pennsylvania, the ICMA charts, graphs, and recommendations all look eerily familiar.  It probably explains why O’Connell never referred to Giaimo by name, (calling him superintendent) and why he referred to the supervisors as commissioners.  O’Connell had his boilerplate speech down to a science and needed to keep his references generic.

A fire department official from Benton Harbor, Michigan is quoted in the article, ‘City Hired Fire Service Consultant ICMA Recommendations Challenged Across America’ saying, “The only thing they (ICMA) did was scratch off another municipality’s name and put Benton Harbor on it.”

ICMA isn’t well loved in some municipalities – in one city, Lake Havau in Arizona the consultants were roundly criticized by that City Council who felt they overpaid for a cut and paste job.  From the minutes, “Councilmember Callahan said that after thoroughly reviewing this ICMA report, he thought there were a lot of inconsistencies, and he believed the city overpaid for this report.  Councilmember Nyberg felt that ICMA merely copied the report form the City of Alameda, California for the Lake Havau City report, and she thought some of the information was inaccurate.” 

Some in Lake Havsu were concerned that ICMA may have used the report submitted to another city, changed some titles around and shifted some information, but used largely the same recommendations.

Something else that seemed disturbing as I followed ICMA’s paper trail, was an underlying anti-union message, referring to ICMA as “hired consultant a hired gun”. Mark Woolbright, International Association of Fire Fighters 2nd District vice president, issued a warning about ICMA’s motives, “It’s clear from everything we’ve heard from around the country that any municipality dealing with ICMA does so at their own risk. A consultant may be paid to provide a report to the local government to provide political cover for making cuts to fire department staffing and resources.”

Were it not for ICMA’s unsettling presentation at the supervisor’s meeting, I may not have done this research.  I am now convinced that the township, and specifically the Police Department, had better thoroughly review ICMA’s recommendations before instituting – and that includes the level of staffing requirements.

Was there an agenda behind the hiring of ICMA?  Was it to substantiate the police department staffing requirements for the 2013 budget?  Was it an honest attempt on the part of the supervisors to better understand the police operations and needs? 

The one question that the supervisors (and the residents) wanted answered – What is the minimum staffing level of police officers required to maintain our quality of service? A clear, concise response to this question seemed to escape O’Connell.  Even supervisor Michelle Kichline said that she read ICMA’s report five times and was still confused as to the number of officers!

Here’s what we do know – the township currently employs 41 uniformed police officers, and there is authorization for 47 officers (and funding) included in the 2012 township budget.  The ICMA report suggests 43 officers are needed to maintain acceptable service but the proposed 2013 township budget only includes 42 officers.  Police Superintendent Tony Giaimo asked the Board to increase the level from 42 to 47 officers to keep it at the same level as the 2012 budget. Kichline made it clear that there would no new-hires until the police contract was signed.  However, when will that be?  The independent arbitrator has had the Tredyffrin Township Police Association/Tredyffrin Township collective bargaining agreement for 11+ months.

The unsigned police contract is causing many unknowns in the township’s proposed 2013-budget.  With most police contract arbitrations taking 3-4 months for settlement in Pennsylvania, what’s the hold-up in Tredyffrin?  The answer may be simple – the township and the police union started the police contract negotiating process in extreme opposing positions.  By my count, there were 18 police officers in attendance at Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting – about as many police as there were regular audience members.

The police union started the contract negotiation process from a status quo position, seeking a new contract with the township that contained benefits in their 2009-11 contract, including the post-retirement medical plan.  Faced with the $40M unfunded medical liability, the township’s position was the polar opposite.  It is my understanding that the township’s starting position in the police contract negotiation process was to eliminate post-retirement medical benefits for all new-hires.  I’m guessing the answer for the arbitrator must lie somewhere between these two positions.

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Since January 2012, the collective bargaining agreement between the township and the police union has been in arbitration.  An independent arbitrator, Michael Zobrak, is the third member of the arbitration board (jointly chosen by the township and the police union).  The other two members of the arbitration board represent the township and the police union, respectively.

In reading Pennsylvania Police & Firefighter Collective Bargaining Law, Act No. 111, there is no timeline indicated for a determination.

PA Act No. 111: An Act specifically authorizing collective bargaining between policemen and firemen and their public employers; providing for arbitration in order to settle disputes, and requiring compliance with collective bargaining agreements and findings of arbitrators.

25 Comments

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  1. Pattye,
    You have done the township a valuable service with this excellent background research on ICMA. I hope this information is taken into account in the budget planning process. From reading this it appears that an ICMA secretary could have done the report.

    The recommended staffing level of 43 happens to be at a midpoint between the current 41 and budgeted 47. Probably intended to be non-controversial rather than based on fact.

    I would suggest that far more weight be given to Tony Giaimo’s stated need based on his hands on knowledge rather than the now seemingly discredited ICMA report.

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  2. i am wondering how many first year officers, training as they may be, don’t graduate to the second year. Does this happen? If so how often. thanks

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  3. The great value I gain from Community Matters is the transparency it brings to local affairs. I think that the high stakes in the “new normal” make it critical for residents and government to be informed.

    So, while Monday’s presentation was clearly a debacle, I believe that the report is an important step in the march to transparency.

    It’s not surprising that there are other well-managed professional police departments that could benefit from innovative staffing approaches, that those departments would be described in the same way by the same consultant, or that unions looking to maintain their lifestyle would go on record against the consultant.

    Pattye asks: “Was there an agenda behind the hiring of ICMA? Was it to substantiate the police department staffing requirements for the 2013 budget? Was it an honest attempt on the part of the supervisors to better understand the police operations and needs?” I can’t speak for the BOS, but as a community member I supported the consultant hiring for both those reasons.

    From the budget discussions we know that the total compensation of an average police officer costs the taxpayers (now or in the future) somewhere around $180,000 every year. I think it would just continue the irresponsible behavior of previous Supervisors to approve a staffing model without understanding the answers to the questions framed in the report. Also, note that the report incurred a ONE TIME expense of just over a quarter of the ANNUAL lifetime cost of one officer.

    Caution against making commitments at this time is also justified by the uncertainty about the compensation liability pending the arbitrator report. And can also be viewed against the backdrop of the significant declines in both Part I and Part II crimes in recent years.

    As far as I can see, the consultant hiring recommendations come directly from the overtime data – annualizing the run rate at August 15th gives an expected total of $200,000 for the year. Given the current partial accounting for officer compensation, this could pay for two new officers (although only one in the long term). Arguably some level of overtime is necessary for any organization to run efficiently and to give extra income opportunities to its staff.

    It’s critical that the BOS and the community do not consider the report an one-and-done matter. Let’s use it to frame discussions about service levels, costs and fees for services provided, and ideas for improved efficiency.

    BTW: Am I the only one disturbed by President Kichline’s persistent use of the first person singular when referring to BOS or township authority?

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  4. This consultant throws around the recommendation to change the staff schedule like all it takes is a snap of the finger. Maybe there could be a net gain, but a schedule change cannot be instituted without the change in the collective bargaining agreement. At a minimum, the 2013 township budget needs to include the 2 additional officers per this report. I’d like to see some credence given to the police chief’s request for 47 officers. Shouldn’t his input be part of the BOS calculation.

    I want to make sure that I understand this correctly — as it now stands the township budget for 2013 decreases the police officers from 47 to 42 and increases our taxes by 5.5%. Patty, please confirm.

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    BR,

    Your understanding of the number of police officers is accurate as far as I know. However, there will be no new hires until after the police contract is signed, which means the department is holding at 41 officers. Michelle Kichline did say that she wanted to further review the consultant’s report before the next BOS meeting.

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  5. It’s incredible about the same essential statements for other states in this report.
    It makes the nearly $50,000 seem like a sick waste of our $. Let alone this guy was a busy professor and not able to make it to face the BOS bi monthly scheduled meeting. Never mind the debacle with Skype.
    Or trying hard to follow over a phone call. The sad few of us there were left dazed and frustrated that our town elected these people? We paid how much of our tax $ to tell us vague statements apparently used in most places people pay to do this survey.

    Perhaps if more of the township paid attention and came to the meetings or spoke up, the BOS may be realistic in actually keeping our force strong and our town even safer.

    Obviously not one of them lives on the true outskirts of the township or faced a 911 police emergency yet. Or they would be more supportive or intuitive to keeping our town (and schools) to the high standard we expect.

    With all the petty thefts it would be nice to see more patrol cars in the entire township during all the shifts.
    It’s easy to feel safe when you are near the township building. Try being out where most people consider other townships. Yet is still Tredyffrin!

    What can people do to get folks to the meetings?
    Most people when asked have no idea of this pending budget request. Or the low # of officers. I hope Tony Giaimo
    speaks up for his force. Most of all more town people come and show some support.

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    Trisha Larkin Reply:

    TE Resident:

    If you’re an avid CM follower, then you know hundreds of TE residents attended every BOS meeting for the past year. Glenhardie and Daylesford residents fought for months fighting specific issues that were important to them. Even when Keane Hall was FILLED so that it was standing room only, the end result was clear – the BOS is going to do what THEY want to do. Period.

    From Trout Creek, to the DNA, to Pattye’s First Amendment situation, and most recently the new (ridiculous) Township Website policy – perhaps some of us have just “checked out”. We’re through taking up space in Keane Hall to show support (or opposition) to a Board that clearly doesn’t care WHAT we think.

    I’m certainly very grateful to Pattye for CM! She provides a tremendous service for all of us! No matter WHERE we stand on the police ops study or if more officers should be hired…guess what? If the past predicts the future – the BoS couldn’t care less what we think. So, I applaud anybody for taking personal time to attend the meetings….just don’t be disappointed if your expectations are not met.

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    TE resident Reply:

    I can blame myself being new to these meetings. Shame on me!

    I live in a little world of busy and take for granted our police, fire and schools. Yet when an issue arises with school (board) I attend those meetings or seem to be better in the loop. (Thanks to my children)

    Thank goodness for this community (news) to keep us even further up to speed. Thank you Pattye.

    I have read many residents come out in force when something will impact them (Such as Daylesford etc).

    Every resident in Tredyffrin should know our police are at the bare bones and BUSY and hope to gain more then just 2 officers this ‘so called’ consultant offered up. (Here there and everywhere it seems).

    Hopefully the board will realize what’s best for our town.
    But I echo what you say. It seems this current board will do whatever they darn well wish and keep our police on a very skeleton crew!
    We’ll remember that come election time. A sleeping elected official, $49,000 wasted money, and no real responses to the towns people who take the time to ask important questions.

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  6. I’ll have a different viewpoint. The report did have value; just not $50K worth of value. For a novice in law enforcement matters, the report was a good basic summary of the current situation with a few general suggestions. It was a good foundation for many of the supervisors and the general public.
    .
    Now the conversation can begin to determine what changes are needed.
    .
    (John adds several valuable comments to the discussion and then, unfortunately, starts down the character assignation pathway with the “moron” comment)

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    flyersfan Reply:

    he has some good ideas./ I would like to see him run and win for supervisor. that would be interesting to get him on the board!

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  7. Pattye,

    Again thanks for the research you did on IMCA, the consultant hired by the BoS. I wonder if the BoS is aware of theiri reputaation.. If I were a supervisor, I would definitely not approve their bill for payment. Let them sue us, we’d probably win, but we’d need an attorney other than the current township solicitor.

    That report was a disgrace. I gave up watching midway through the question & answer portion of the meeting. What a waste of time & money.

    BTW, I gave up attending BoS meetings years ago. Now I watch them from the comfort of my home.

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  8. In my experience, townships waste a lot of tax dollars on “consultants” so consultants can give them the answers they are looking for and the cover to do what they want to do.

    These consultants know very well what township staff and boards want through the questions they ask while they do their analysis and they tailor their recommendations along those lines.

    If anything, supervisors who are novices in the arena the consultant is brought in learn a little from the final report, and it cost a lot of tax dollars for a little on-the-job training for a supervisor to get the answer s/he already wanted while the consultants recommendation gives the board and senior staff cover for any unpopular moves.

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    With the police contract negotiations nearing its one-year anniversary, it looks like this consultant’s report may do little more than add another level of angst to the process. Without the signed police contract, the BOS has a greater challenge re approving the 2013 budget.

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    Keith Knauss Reply:

    I have found consulting contracts to be worth the money and not at all used to provide political “cover”. The UCFSD funded 3 studies in 2011 looking at the efficiency of the transportation department, the custodial department and the food services department. In one case there were no changes made; in another case modest changes were made; in the last case the service was on the brink of being outsourced until significant changes were made.
    .
    Bids from multiple consultants were solicited.
    The reports were publicized.
    In one case, bids from outsourcing firms were solicited.
    Employees were involved in efforts to find efficiencies.

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    politeia Reply:

    Much better than the experience LMSD recently had with a consultant on redistricting between the two high schools.

    The consultant gave the school board the answer they wanted – which involved African American students in South Ardmore “taking one for the team” (to quote one school board member from an internal email) and a massive, lengthy and costly racial discrimination lawsuit that was appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court this year.

    LMSD “won”, but at what cost to taxpayers? Consultant fees that led to the lawsuit, massive legal fees, virtually the entire school board being replaced, and ongoing animosity and lack of trust.

    What the lawsuit found out in discovery was the consultant, the school board and school administration were basically in cahoots on how to pull the wool over the eyes of citizens on how students would be redistricted, and while the courts ruled race played a distinct role, the courts ruled it was not illegal. Still does not make students and their families who were redistricted based on the color of their skin happy.

    Like I posted – I’m speaking from my experience. No doubt other townships have had different, and I’m sure better experiences with government hired consultants, but I’d still be careful of agendas.

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    Keith Knauss Reply:

    Politeia,
    I’m curious about LM. The LMSD and the union recently (Nov 16) agreed to a new 3 year contract. There was a “blackout” on negotiations until a Tentative Agreement was reached. This is in contrast with the TE experience where the public was kept informed during the negotiations process. LM employees are already compensated well in excess of employees in surrounding districts and the contract terms are what I would describe as excessive.
    .
    I was expecting “pushback” from someone or some organization in the community, on both the lack of transparency and the terms of the contract, but I have heard of none.
    .
    What’s going on in LM?

    politeia Reply:

    Keith,

    I wanted to attend the school board meeting on that but had a conflict.

    LM citizens have all but given up.

    The school board and the township commissioners just do whatever they want regardless of what citizens say, so many citizens have just given up with voicing their views or concerns at meetings.

    Masses of citizens came out last opposing new commercial zoning in Bala. The township commissioners (including the two Bala commissioners) just ignored the citizens and voted for the zoning in favor of business development to the harm of home owners.

    There is no democratic process in LM. It’s an oligarchy where a select view do whatever they want.

    And, they don’t worry about not getting re-elected. Their wards are 90% their party and most citizens are not involved and don’t understand these issues, so they just blindly vote party line.

  9. Here is law enforcement staffing information for surrounding areas.
    .
    Population —total employees — officers — civilians — Ratio
    .
    East Whiteland Township ………10,899 — 22 — 20 — 2 — 495
    Easttown Township ………………..10,706 — 15 — 14 — 1 — 714
    Malvern ……………………….3,174 — 6 — 5 –1 — 529
    Newtown Township …………………11,937 — 19 — 17 — 2 — 628
    Phoenixville ………………….16,923 — 29 — 28 — 1 — 584
    Radnor Township ……………. 31,260 — 57 — 47 — 10 — 548
    Schuylkill Township ……………….7,881 — 13 — 11 — 2 — 606
    Tredyffrin Township ……………..29,336 — 53 — 47 — 6 — 554
    Upper Merion Township ………26,693 — 83 — 64 — 19 — 322
    Upper Providence Township…….20,416 — 27 — 25 — 2 — 756
    Willistown Township …………….10,984 — 19 — 17 — 2 — 578

    http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010/tables/table-78/10tbl78pa

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    This is interesting, thanks. How is the ratio factored? If you look at the population of Radnor and Tredyffrin Twps, the staffing is fairly comparable. On the other hand, LM is slightly less populated but look at their police department staffing — significantly higher; not even close!

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    Keith Knauss Reply:

    The ratio is just the ratio of residents per total law enforcement employees – a straightforward division of the first two numbers.

    How could I leave LM off?

    Here it is:

    Lower Merion Township…. 57,561- 155 – 136 – 19 – 371

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    Keith Knauss Reply:

    I posted the data because I read the title of this topic, “How many police officers does it take to protect Tredyffrin Township residents” and thought a bit of data might help. [smile] If anyone has read the articles posted at efficienteducation.org they would know I love data.
    .
    I limited the data to jurisdictions surrounding TT. There was no analysis of the data included on purpose. I think the average reader understands there are several factors that cause one jurisdiction to have a high number of citizens per officer and another to have a low number. As an example, I live in the following township.
    .
    East Marlborough Township …8,316 – 1 – 1 – 0 – 8316
    .
    We have one officer per 8,300 residents. TE has one per 550. We don’t have the traffic or proximity to Phila that TT does. We also have a state police barracks nearby.
    .
    If I were to attempt an analysis of the data I would say that TT’s staffing level is not alarmingly high or low – there are many other townships that behave similarly.

    Rob Reply:

    Keith,

    Your numbers leave out a few facts. Tredyffrin has a daytime population of over 100K. Since they currently have 40 officers, that would be 2564 to 1. Plus they have almost 30K calls for service each year. East Marlboro probably has 500 a year.

    Rob

  10. Population is not the only factor to a communities needs. Day time population can skyrocket due to commercial buildings. Also, proximity to city and urban areas is also a heavy driver to the needs of a police department. Lower Merion may have a large area of high-rent district, it also has a large area that borders Philadelphia. Township/city borders are not boundaries to crime. Upper Merion has has the KOP mall and a massive crossroads of highways. Just imagine right now if all of Tredyffrin’s commercial buildings were filled to capacity every day.

    My point, don’t just look at the numbers. There are far more other factors to life safety.

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  11. The supervisors are not full time employees. From what I’ve seen, they are reasonable, level headed people and have diverse experiences. (If you disagree, vote them out.) Of course they need to use consultants when looking at large issues. Anyone who has consulted or engaged consultants understands that the value they bring is their access to data and knowledge and ability to compare/contrast this information. Frankly, I’d be annoyed if they wasted our money changing individual names and those of governing bodies.

    Keith is right; it starts the conversation. It also gives the BOS a quick education and frame of reference. Geographical size of area is an important factor, too. Unfortunately, our daytime population doesn’t “sky-rocket” as we struggle to lure or even keep business in our township.

    Tony Giamo is well respected and the supervisors understand his request and the logic behind his expressed needs. They are also experienced enough to understand that he is an interested party by default.

    What is excruciating is the race to find fault with everything in this community. Pick your battles and perhaps your opinions will carry a greater weight.

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    Pattye Benson Reply:

    Guy, As follow-up, you sent a separate comment that suggested that this comment (above) “was deleted as it does meet the unspoken requirement of this forum”. That is not true — I want to assure you that comments are often posted that disagree with mine or others positions on a wide range of topics. However, comments are not automated, I review each comment before it goes on Community Matters and sometimes it can be several hours (or overnight) before review/upload comments. Although I spend a lot of time on CM, I do have other responsibilities that sometimes require a delay in posting comments. In this case, the delay on posting your comment was caused by a Paoli Blues Fest board meeting, which required my attendance. Thank you for your understanding.

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