Mayor Brian Marl likes to accent the positive. And Jon Hess, in the second review of the Saline Police Department (SPD) did just that - mostly.
“In general, the Saline Police Department is an impressive organization,” Hess wrote. “Members of the department of all ranks and positions demonstrate a high degree of professionalism and dedication to the agency and the community. The recommendations offered should be viewed as opportunities to improve an already high-performing organization.”
The first report by Hess was less glowing. He had particularly emphasized problems with communication and a “brokenness” in the organization.
“I, with thoughtful caution, report that I also sensed a pattern and theme that is symbolic of ‘brokenness’ within the Police Department,” Hess had written.
With his current report written fifteen months afterward he noted, “a tremendous bright spot in efforts with respect to trying to improve communication.” He also noted that his earlier comments on brokenness had resonated with SPD staff and they believe they have now left that behind.
“People came and told me that they wanted me to know that they’re working hard to develop a sense of pride within the department,” Hess said. “They want people to know that they like their job; they like each other; they like working together. And although there is still a wedge in some case, they are not going to let that get in the way of the majority of what they are doing.”
And there is the lingering problem. The brokenness is less prevalent but still endures as “a wedge.”
“During this current visit I heard again that there are still a limited few within the police department that continue to create a wedge of distraction for so many within the police department,” Hess said. “So many of the staff within the police department are also hopeful that the detractors of the department’s progress will eventually see the pain their actions are fostering and get on board moving forward.”
The ten-page report (which may be found on the City of Saline web site as a pdf file entitled “hessreport.”) highlighted bright spots and opportunities for improvement. Hess noted improvement in many areas, but suggested areas to work on as well.
Hess summarized his report from the podium. Afterward, he answered questions from council members.
In response to questions on how to drive improvement, Hess recommended that Council communicate their expectations of the SPD in a work meeting with the Chief and the City Manager. He also recommended development of a strategic plan that would outline specific measurable objectives.
Council member Christen Mitchell asked what was being done about the city’s lock-up facilities, since Hess had previously recommended that the city use county lock up to avoid potential liability problems. Hess reported that Chief Larry Hrinik is currently engaged with this issue and cannot comment at this time.
The “wedge” was an issue that kept coming up in discussion. To provide some clarity, council member Dean Girbach said, “we know it’s not a wedge, it’s people.”
Girbach noted that the wedge issue has been going on for several years and was responsible for the brokenness referred to in the first review. He emphasized that it has to be resolved.
“Despite having what seems to be a glowing review, something has to be done,” Girbach said.
In response, Mayor Marl insisted that he is not overlooking the problem and intends to deal with it. Girbach said that he was glad that the mayor was on the same page.