Grievances and Responses at DPD

If there is anything a lot of us don’t see its the many roles that the Town Manager has to perform.

One is to personally handle the employee grievances (official complaints from employees) that seem to regularly occur in our Police Dept.

After the outside review that was perfomed on this department this spring, it was obvious that the department is trying to perform its services with very limited funding.  An attempt was made to ask the taxpayers to provide more funds for the safety departments, but that did not succeed.  What did happen however is that more people are paying attention to the department.

In January, a grievance from NEPBA (the union of which our police force is represented by) was recieved ( 1-26-2016 Grievance & Decision ) in response to a Sept 25, 2015 “correspondence from Deputy Chief Chartrand directing him (Lt Fleury) to submit a letter of explanation” about his working a certain number of hours within a timeframe that the Deputy suggested was in violation of a department policy.

Later, Fleury learned a copy of the correspondence would be placed in his “permanent file”, Fleury was given the opportunity to include a rebuttal.

The union’s grievance was that the policy regarding hours being worked did not exist at the time of the incident.

Response by Town Manager

Town Manager Duggan had to put in a lot of time and effort, as well as legal costs to have the Special Labor Counsel review the issues as well.

During his investigation, the police department claimed that the file where the correspondence was was being put was not the “permanent file” but an internal affairs file.  Duggan found that the “internal affairs” file is still part of the “personnel file”.

Furthermore, Duggan found that the correspondence from the Deputy Chief was “inundated with language that strongly suggests a personal hostility of the author toward the recipient.”

It is an audacious, personalized, subjective statement I consider inappropriate and outside the context of the intra-departmental communications between a supervisory officer and a subordinate officer.

Ultimately, Duggan agreed with the union grievance and had the letters removed from the files.

Lowell Sun Article

A second grievance ( 3-19-2016 Grievance & Decision ) was received in late March after an article appeared in the Lowell Sun regarding the previous grievance (which had not been disposed of at that time).

Information had been released to the press that the union felt was not appropriate with regard to an Internal Affairs investigation still underway.

The grievance asked for an investigation of the IA procedure violations by the Dept Chief, and for an apology be printed in the Sun (they also asked the Sun to retract the article.. but we have no control over that).

The Manager Responds again

It looks like the manager put a lot of time into this one, as he did the research to find that the issue at hand did not rise to the level of an Internal Affairs investigation. “I am hard pressed to conclude,” he says “that the asserted violation of an unwritten policy, known as the ’16 hour rule’, would warrant and IA investigation based on DPD policies regarding these underlying circumstances.”

He went on, again, to discuss his unhappiness with the Deputy Chief statements during the conferences that occurred over these grievances.

I am also concerned regarding statements made by the Deputy Chief during both conferences that 1) any matter of inquiry, regardless of the degree, in which the possible outcome could result in discipline warrants an internal affairs investigation, and that 2) Policies and Procedures are not relevant as to how “we” operate.

The manager goes on the reiterate that the MRI Risk Assessment Study Report had a significant finding that our DPD does not have a formalized internal affairs investigative program, nor a supervisor charged with running such a department… which is exactly why all this has occurred.

Investigation Continues

The investigation of these issues, and the steps taken by the Dracut Police Department continue.  Town Manager Duggan has arranged an outside appointee to oversee the investigation and make a ruling.

At that point, the Manager can choose to accept the ruling, overrule it and make his own finding, or amend it.  I would assume that because he went outside to get an unbiased appointee that he will accept the ruling.

Overall, it really looks the the DPD needs to spend the time and effort to review all of its policies (there are hundreds of towns  and cities in Massachusetts that we can use as examples).  We cannot discipline employees with  unwritten policies or bring things to the level of an investigation that could just be handled via normal supervisory means which I would hope are also written.   Importantly, we need to improve the level of respect between the officers and the management.. I can’t believe this is only about funding.

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