Communication Builds Our Community

City Approves Contract for Top-to-Bottom Review of Police Department

A team of law enforcement experts from the Center for Public Safety Management will conduct a full analysis of the Lake Wales Police Department to recommend improvements.

The city will pay $45,550 to the center, which is affiliated with the International City/County Manager Association. City Manager James Slaton said the top-to-bottom assessment will result in an action list of improvements.

According to the agreement for a comprehensive analysis of law enforcement services approved March 16 by the city commission, the review team will:

- Conduct a data-driven forensic analysis to identify actual workload

- Identify and recommend appropriate staffing and deployment levels for every operational and support function of the department

- Examine the department's organizational structure and culture

- Perform gap analysis, comparing the "as is" state of the department to the best practices of industry standards

- Recommend a management framework to ensure accountability, increased efficiency, and improved performance

The assessment is expected to take three to four months.

"The proposal is specifically designed to provide local government with a thorough and unbiased analysis of emergency services in your community," wrote Leonard Matarese, CPSM managing partner, in the proposal for the study. "We have developed a unique approach be combing the experience of dozens of subject matter experts in the areas of emergency services."

Matarese said the team will be true "subject matter experts" with hundreds of years of practical experience, not research assistants or interns.

The project manager will be Carol Rasor-Cadero, a retired captain from the Pinellas County (FL) Sheriff's Office with 25 years' law enforcement experience, who is also an associate professor in Public Safety Administration for St. Petersburg College. Her team will include public safety data analysts and retired police chiefs and other law enforcement officials from Florida, California, Oregon and New York.

The project begins with CPSM requesting data, documents and worksheets; the organization extracts raw data on service calls from the computer aided dispatch system and compares it to industry standards. The group also will conduct an on-site operational review, which will include interviews with police at all levels, ride-alongs with officers and review of case files.

Lake Wales Police Chief Chris Velasquez told commissioners during a workshop session March 10 that "Everyone is very open minded and very eager to participate in this program." Velasquez said other Florida departments that have undergone the study offered positive reviews.

"It's meant to help us do better – every day, how can we do better?" Velasquez said, noting the review will give the department the opportunity to take its service to the next level.

Local pastor James Wells objected to the expense of the study, saying the money could be better spent purchasing more police worn body cameras. The commission last month agreed to purchase eight body cameras to initiate a program that they said ultimately would include all officers. Wells said the community has made the city aware of problems in the police department, especially with specific officers, and the department could fix the issue by terminating bad officers rather than just studying the issues.

Velasquez said the Polk County Sheriff's Office is expected to complete an investigation into complaints against officers in the near future.


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