Two weeks after Beverly Hills settled a lawsuit with a former police captain who sued claiming he was discriminated against and passed over for the job of Beverly Hills police chief, the City Council received a progress report from Management Partners about improvements to the department.
“There is a high level of support of the Beverly Hills Police Department from sworn and civilian workers in the police department and community,” said Joe Polisar, of Management Partners. “There is a need for greater unity of command, and more communication and understanding needed. There is always room for improvement.”
Polisar spoke during a mostly positive presentation to Beverly Hills City Council during a study session on Dec. 11. Polisar and Management Partners’ Jay Trevino outlined findings of a 2018 report to determine the effectiveness of strategies recommended in 2015.
Spagnoli has been the subject of multiple lawsuits filed by police department employees alleging discrimination and bias within the department, particularly with promotions. On Nov. 30, the city announced that a settlement was reached in a lawsuit filed by former Capt. Mark Rosen, who claimed he was passed over for the chief’s job and was discriminated against because he is Jewish. Approximately 20 other employees have filed similar lawsuits.
The city settled the lawsuit on the advice of its insurance company and did not admit wrongdoing. Spagnoli and the city have declined to discuss the specific allegations or the pending lawsuits.
Polisar, who was chief of the Albuquerque and Garden Grove police departments before joining Management Partners, attributed the discontent to older police department employees who may be resistant to change.
“Change is difficult, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a police department or IBM,” Polisar told the council. “You have a fine police department that you should be very proud of.”
Management Partners’ initial report three years ago recommended changes such as “establishing written standards and criteria for evaluating police officer candidates,” and “expanding the composition of the first interview panel to include a lieutenant, member of the human resources staff and a senior police officer,” according to a letter to the city manager. Recommendations for the promotional and disciplinary processes were also made.
At the time, the city was looking for ways to boost the department ranks and provide better leadership. The city hired Chief Sandra Spagnoli to lead the department in 2016, and one of her top priorities was to implement Management Partners’ recommendations. Trevino and Polisar said many of the suggestions for new policies are now in place.
For the 2018 review, Management Partners conducted 25 individual interviews. They randomly selected sworn officers and civilian employees and asked them about morale, possibilities for promotion and other things they liked or disliked about the department.
Management Partners determined that the “overall organizational climate and morale in the department are good,” according to a written report presented to council. However, there were still some concerns voiced about change occurring too fast, a lack of information about the changes being disseminated and questions about possibilities for promotion.
The latest report indicated interviewees gave high marks to the department’s current recruiting and hiring process, although some civilian employees stated they hope there will be more options for promotions. The report stated that 10 promotions in civilian positions occurred in the department in 2018 after the report was compiled. They include the promotion of four traffic control officers, three records supervisors, a senior forensics specialist and a dispatch supervisor.
“Our view is that appropriate promotional opportunities in the department exist, despite concerns of some employees to the contrary,” the written report read. “Further, we see this is an opportunity for the chief to counter the misimpression with the facts, whether through meetings, in writing or in other ways.”
Management Partners made 11 new recommendations in its 2018 report, including creating a tiered ranking system for promotions, clarifying responsibilities of the assistant chief, establishing expectations for all department leaders, reviewing the way information about strategies is shared with employees and providing more information to employees about the recruitment process. Other recommendations are to better articulate the approach supervisors use to handle minor internal incidents, assess whether there are gaps in addressing key department functions, reprioritize department objectives, and clarify communication objectives in disseminating information about training and what’s expected of employees.
Management Partners also suggested reviewing record keeping for recruitment so reviews can be more easily conducted, and that a review of staffing be made of administrative and analytical functions related to recruiting.
Spagnoli said most of the new recommendations will be implemented over the next six months, and the department will report to the council in July on whether it may take longer to reach any further goals. The council remains supportive of the chief and members were mostly satisfied with the improvements being made in the police department.
“We are fully staffed. We have a police department that is moving forward,” Mayor Julian Gold said. “I don’t think we could ask for more.”
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