Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Kichline & Heaberg defend $49K Police Department study, but don’t address hiring additional police officers

Tredyffrin BOS Chair Michelle Kichline and Vice Chair Mike Heaberg have co-authored an editorial on the township police department with the stated purpose to offer facts, history and perspective. (Click here to read the op-ed). Appearing in the Main Line Suburban, their response focuses on the recent police-township contract negotiations and the township’s $49K police consultant study. (On a personal note, I would like to thank the supervisors for appropriately using media for their op-ed rather than the township website.)

According to Kichline and Heaberg, the average wages per Tredyffrin Township police officer is $101K in 2013 with an additional $77K annually in healthcare, pension, life insurance benefits for officers and their spouses/dependents. We know from reading the police contract that retired police officers receive healthcare benefits for life and this is reiterated in the article. It is important for taxpayers to realize that the Police Department budget accounts for almost 50% of the township’s General Fund budget – for 2013, that cost is $8 million.

According to Kichline and Heaberg, the “BOS attempted to negotiate a termination of some benefits for new police hires only, but when the discussions did not progress, the decision was made to go to arbitration.” Their explanation differs from the explanation given to me by representatives of the police department. According to my sources, there was no negotiation but rather the arbitrator for the township took the police contract to arbitration after only one meeting. After nearly a year, we learned in December that the independent arbitrator’s decision favored the police department.

Regardless if the BOS attempted to negotiate with the police prior to settlement, the township’s cost of arbitration was not included in Kichline and Heaberg’s editorial. As I previously mentioned in an earlier post, the township paid $83K+ in arbitration costs. ($14K+ for impartial arbitrator and $$69K for township arbitrators). The total cost for the arbitration is probably closer to $100K as I only received Ballard Spahr billable hours through 8 October, 2012. (Click here for details)

In the op-ed, Kichline and Heaberg defend the $49K spent on the police department study. I am certain that their decision to depend the consulting contract is a direct result of the presentation (or rather the non-presentation) of the police operations study on December 2. This was the BOS meeting where the consultant, Dr. Paul O’Connell of ICMA, was unable to attend the meeting and the idea was to ‘Skype” him in electronically from Connecticut. The Skype attempt failed miserably with the audience and supervisors unable to understand a single word. It was a hopeless exercise and no one could successfully question the consultant in regards to the police department study.

Apparently, at upcoming BOS meeting on February 11, two consultants from ICMA will be available (in person) to respond to questions concerning their study. According to Kichline and Heaberg, ICMA “collected an entire years worth of data on each of more than 23,000 calls for service to our Police. This included type of call, time of day, day of week, response time, number of units responding, time on scene, etc. In addition, they collected staffing and schedule information. This allowed them to analyze the police workload, as compared to our police capacity.”

Obviously, supervisors Kichline and Heaberg are entitled to their personal assessment of ICMA’s consulting efforts of Tredyffrin Township’s Police Department. However, for those that follow Community Matters, you will recall that because I had found ICMA’s presentation so unsettling, I conducted my research on the company. I discovered that ICMA isn’t well loved in some municipalities, with some communities reporting that they overpaid for a cut and paste job rather than an accurate assessment of their fire or police departments. (Click here for details).

There was one question that the supervisors and the residents wanted answered by ICMA’s consultant at the December BOS meeting, “What is the minimum staffing level of police officers required to maintain our quality of service” which seemed to escape a response from O’Connell. In their editorial, Kichline and Heaberg write of their support for ICMA’s police department study yet Kichline commented at the December supervisors meeting that she had read ICMA’s report five times and was still confused as to the number of officers the consultants were recommending.

I am glad that Kichline and Heaberg are committed in their support of the police department, but disappointed that their offer of the “facts, history and perspective” does not address the hiring of additional police officers in Tredyffrin. The 2013 budget included the hiring of two police officers with the possibility of the hire of a third officer during the year. Although the recently settled police contract negotiations may not have turned out the way the supervisors wanted, it should not be used as a roadblock to hiring the additional officers.

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  1. Obviously they are feeling some heat for spending our money on a study that was an epic failure by skype?
    So glad we get a second go around. Who will come? I hope there is a good turn out.

    So what’s the hold up of hiring the additional two officers after the costly, lengthy arbitration? Do the board of supervisors live in denial that we’re staffed properly?

    Did they hear that the school district has promised more police around schools, yet we’re offering a false sense of security to our very own community?

    Thanks Pattye!!

  2. I read the Kichline/Heaberg letter a couple times and still dont really understand the point of it. Regardless, there are two questions that need to be answered by the BOS.

    -Did Tredyffrin do ANY research on ICMA before hiring them?

    -Does Tredyffrin believe that they received good value for the ICMA report?

    The truthful answer to both questions is clearly “no”. I expect we will hear the opposite…

  3. Perhaps we need to consider the flawed premise behind this governmental model. This recent school,district issue about a decision made by Dr. Waters reflects someone in charge whose full-time job is to run our school district. He wanted additional input and chose the consultant he felt had the skill set he was seeking. The board supported him.
    This Township issue is the other side of the coin…the board needed the consultant to educate them….not clear who is running this show. The article was an honest effort to explain why they sought the additional input. Heaberg and Kichline are working hard to get it right. But absent a veteran presence (new police superintendent, new township manager, relatively inexperienced BOS) they don’t have the experience or background to make decisions confidently. I applaud their effort, but am not sure the answers lie in any consultant report…because there is no right answer. As Dr.Waters learned yet again, every decision is scrutinized by people who have no specific expertise…but some level of confidence (some called it arrogance…so be it) is required to move decisions forward. leadership requires it. When we evaluate candidates, we need to acknowledge that. ICMA clearly had the credentials…now we need leadership to consider the advice…or not.

    1. “When we evaluate candidates, we need to acknowledge that. ICMA clearly had the credentials… “

      Did you read ICMA’s report? Or watch ICMA’s presentation at the BOS meeting? I read the report and sat through the consultant’s December presentation and I question ICMA’s credentials. You may call it “scrutinizing by people who have no specific expertise”, I know what I read and I what I heard. Does that make me an expert on police study consultants? No. But after researching ICMA and finding out that my concerns were echoed repeatedly in other municipalities, across the country, certainly caused ME pause. If I read the police department study on Tredyffrin Twp multiple times and was unable to find the recommended number of officers needed to adequately keep us safe, I have a problem with the report. My informed, non-expert opinion.

    2. Cowardly,

      Pattye is correct. The report is clearly boilerplate… And if anyone from TT had done a modicum of research on ICMA it would have been obvious that MANY former ICMA clients felt ripped off…

      With respect to the lack of veteran experience that drove the need to hire a consultant, that is totally false>>>> The “new” Superintendant of the police was neither new to the department, nor was he new to being in an administrative role at Tredyffrin. The “relatively inexperienced” BOS collectively has decades of BOS experience. And the “new township manager” at the time that ICMA was hired was Mimi Gleason….

  4. I think this is just a way for the Board to see that our $50,000 was well spent, it really really was.

    Pattye did the research and her fact finding was brilliant.

    I attended the meeting as well. I was with two other residents equally ticked off at the failure to deliver or convince me.

    Let’s hope people show up on 2/11 and ask some tough hard questions.

  5. Email lacks tone. I was not contradicting Pattye. I don’t find the report useful. In reading the Kichline/Heaberg comments, they believed ICMA was credentialed and they articulated what they base that assumption on. I was never a fan of Ms. Gleason, and believe the poor vetting of ICMA is on her. Regardless, we paid for bad information. Should we hold back payment or ask for updated advice? They explained the goal of arbitration…and that it failed. With $77K in costs per employee annually in addition to compensation, clearly there are factors in play that affect the decision process.

    Regardless, we are all here offering scrutiny, but ultimately decisions have to be made, and that takes leadership, not just more advice. Leaders can not be afriad to fail…and have to have thick skin. Look at the shots people have taken at Dr. Waters for his decision….whether or not it was “right.”

    As to the experience on the BOS…collective experience means little. JD and Paul clearly have little to offer to the newer voices except history. We see how JD deals with scrutiny. We have a governmental model that limits the ability for decisive action. And patience, virtuous as it is, is not in abundance in the blogosphere or the interested observers.

    What to do?

  6. Thanks, Pattye, for providing this link.

    I’m pleased that the BOS has chosen to provide their perspective on the police department negotiations, operations analysis and cost. Apparently they proposed changing some benefits only for new hires and selected ICMA after review of proposals from three consultants. Their analysis of the basis for the arbitration awards being township ability to pay rather than compensation benchmarks is interesting, and certainly finds support in the TESD Fact Finder report.

    Consultants of all types add value because they know how to obtain, analyze and communicate information in a structured manner, . It’s not surprising to me that some of their findings have also been found elsewhere. The key to my judgment of whether the $49,000 was well spent will be outcome of the apparently ongoing BOS/TTPD review of the 95 recommendations.

    I think it’s hard to define the staffing level for adequate safety. a) What’s “adequate”? Crime in Tredyffrin has fallen by about a quarter since 2007. b) What impact will more or less officers have? It seemed to me that the consultant answer about staffing was based simply on exchanging overtime for new FTEs under the current modus operandi.

    But I think that the report lubricates a community discussion of more fundamental issues in ways that require tangible and specific decisions.

    What types of situation do we want police to respond to? What response time do we want in those situations? How many patrol officers at what time of day would be required to meet those response times? What shift patterns would enable that staffing in the most efficient way? And so on.

    In days past, when costs were lower and less well understood, the answers to these questions were not important. Now though, I’m very grateful that our Supervisors spent less than one third the annual cost of an officer to stimulate a community discussion of these issues.

    As a final thought, I think that it’s critical that the township budget in 2014 should show the full actuarial cost of the current force, both current and also deferred compensation. (With reasonable assumptions about investment returns for the money thus put aside). In addition, there should be a separate analysis and recommendation of a complete plan to pay for the liabilities already incurred. Paying those “as-we-go” may not be so bad a choice, rather than attempting to front load them on to current taxpayers.

  7. If this was a report on how many books need to be in a library or how many swing sets in a park, you can bet your bottom tax dollar it would happen. Emergency services doesn’t win elections. How can they defend what they don’t understand?

  8. After reading the supervisors comments regarding the police department, I feel compelled to retort. Surely, the officers of the Tredyffrin Township Police appreciate the difficult job that the supervisors are faced with on a daily basis. However, there are some facts that must be addressed. A full time 48 month officer earns a base salary of $83K a year. A 20 year officer would earn 10% additional. The $101K number probably comes from the amount of overtime that the officers work due to the department being so short staffed. Currently, the department is 20% under manned. Benefits cost around $20K a year for a family, so I am not sure what process they utilized to derive the $77K per year number. Seems pretty excessive to me if I say so myself. Patty Benson’s blog has a copy of their contract listed online and you can easily confirm the numbers.
    The reason there was an arbitration is because the township did not negotiate with the police. They filed for arbitration immediately after their first meeting with the officers. You could contact one of the association’s board members to verify this if you were actually interested in determining what happened during that process.
    Another misnomer is the so called medical benefits for life. The officers agreed to go to Medicare back in 2008, and the township would cover the difference between Medicare and their current medical plan. Basically, the township provides a supplement after a retiree goes onto Medicare. With that being the case, why hasn’t the “$40 million dollar” so called unfunded liability gone down. The townships financial liability has been reduced by 80%, therefore you would think that their unfunded mandates would have been reduced as well. Also, the officers pay 5% of their salary into their penson. Since they are not under Social Security, the township saves over 6% on each officer. Even the townships pension contribution is less than what they would pay if the officers were in Social Security. All of this makes a reasonably intelligent person wonder what is the real agenda here. After two days with ICMA, I am sure they will have a great deal to tell us about our police department next week..

  9. Robert:

    Great post.

    I certainly just want to know why after so much ‘study’ and tax payers money spent, if the Board has started the hiring process of the two additional officers this expert study suggested.

    The article written painted the police department as rich cry babies. Yet how much over time was spent because they are often short staffed?

  10. The arbitrator failed to address the retirement benefits in the police contract award and now the township is stuck with the $40 million unfunded liability that continues to grow. This arbitration award was not the outcome that the supervisors were expecting so it looks like there solution is to short change the public’s safety by under-staffing the police dept. Not my idea of a solution.

  11. Is there really a $40 million dollar unfunded liability? How much of it was eliminated by the 2008 contract changes? The supervisors appear to have forgotten about this one. Convienant memories.

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