An August survey of the High Springs Police Department officers and staff seems to tell a different story than a previous survey conducted by the Police Benevolence Association (PBA) of Florida in 2009.
High Springs Police Department (HSPD) Chief James Troiano, who resigned Sept. 2 amid budget woes, said in an interview last week that the surveys reflect a positive direction for the department.
“We’ve made great strides in bringing the department together,” he said.
In comparing the survey he conducted to that of the PBA more than two years earlier, Troiano said, “I believe that the commissioners and the members of this community clearly see that they were duped.”
With more than a week to answer the anonymous survey, just six respondents turned them in according to Troiano’s records. That’s three fewer respondents than the PBA survey. Unlike the previous survey, which was open only to members of the PBA, Troiano supplied the survey to the entire HSPD staff, which at the time included about 13 potential respondents. Troiano said he and Lieutenant William Benck were excluded from the latest survey, although a member of the command staff was permitted to participate in the PBA survey.
One of the survey respondents wrote, “I believe the morale is low because of staffing issues that have been going on for several years. A lot has to do with unforeseen problems… illness, injuries and terminations.”
Another wrote, “…overtime creates stress as well as single officers shifts.”
Again, pointing to the staffing shortages, a respondent wrote, “Morale is low but I feel this is due to a low staffing issue within our department; however, the morale is much better than it has been in the past… there is a lot less division within our department.”
Last week, Troiano said continued pressure to reduce the City budget has forced his department to cut back in areas where it shouldn’t have to. “We already lost one police officer from the budget last year, now we’re losing another in me,” he said.
Troiano echoed the sentiments of one of the survey respondents who wrote, “It is ironic that with some staffing issues we’ve had that more will be paid in overtime to tired and overworked officers covering shifts than would be paid to regular full time employees if we had full staffing.”
As for how the chief ranks among the staff, there is a marked improvement based on survey results.
In the 2009 survey, seven officers directly stated that Troiano should be replaced, one other officer wrote “I have no confidence in [Troiano] as the Chief,” while another wrote, “I would like to have a leader that I can feel is looking out for me and not their own personal gain.”
In the August 2011 survey, however, when asked about the statement that “The Chief looks out for the best interests of the employees,” five agreed or strongly agreed while one respondent disagreed.
Again, five respondents agreed that disciplinary actions taken by the department were fair and commensurate with the complaint/violation, according to the survey tabulation. Again, one respondent disagreed.
When asked what has changed at HSPD since the 2009 survey, one respondent simply wrote, “Absolutely nothing!!!” Others meanwhile said that there were too many changes to list, but that they were for the better.
“I believe some officers took ‘sides’ when the new administration came in, and ‘balked’ at new ideas that were presented, which caused friction within the department,” another respondent wrote.
Other complaints by officers ranged from those relating to insurance benefits to a lack of advancement opportunities.
Summarizing the survey results in a memo to High Springs Interim City Manager Jenny Parham, Troiano said, “It is clear from the majority of the responders that a positive change has occurred at the HSPD. Specifically, the departure of unnamed employees, more compliance or cooperation between the management and employees, better morale, people working together as a team, and less division.
“For the one who said ‘absolutely nothing,’ they just solidify my assumption that they are still part of the problem that I inherited in March 2008 when I became Chief of Police.”
Troiano said the surveys demonstrate that HSPD is better now than it was in 2009.
“I’m very proud of the survey results,” said Troiano. “I think it shows how much improvement we’ve made at the department.”
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