The Newtown Police Department is taking the first steps toward implementing recommendations from a diagnostic report of its organizational processes by appointing an informal labor management committee.
Police Chief Michael Kehoe said the formation of the committee is among the recommendations of the report prepared by Dr. James McCabe, a professor at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield and a professional consultant for police departments.
McCabe met with the town’s Police Commission on Sept. 4 to discuss the report and explain some of its technical aspects.
Police Commission Chairman Paul J. Mangiafico said the report was commissioned in 2011 to review interpersonal relationships between the department’s command officers and lower-ranking officers.
Kehoe characterized the report as a "climate survey," and said it is a common type of study done for corporations and other organizations.
McCabe described his methodology, which included a survey and focus groups. The first question he asked of the focus group was "how can your job be improved?"
The report was originally commissioned to review reports of dissatisfaction among the lower-ranking officers in the department.
"It kind of opened up our eyes," Kehoe said.
According to the minutes of the Sept. 4 special meeting, McCabe said his survey determined the department’s officers reported 58 to 59 percent overall satisfaction.
McCabe told the commissioners that was not so bad compared with other departments, although he could still recommend areas for improvement.
One area was the officers’ job performance evaluations, which is something the informal labor management committee would review.
He said much of the problem had to do with miscommunication between the ranks, which had reportedly resulted in a "level of distrust" among the officers.
But the survey also reported that the officers have a high degree of pride in their work and the feeling that they were performing meaningful work was also high.
Kehoe said the dissatisfaction might have more to do with perception than reality, something that might be cleared up by establishing greater communication between the ranks.