City, police chief see positives in independent review of FPD

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published September 11, 2018



FERNDALE — Back in April, the city of Ferndale announced plans for an independent firm to review the Police Department’s procedures and policies.

Conducted by KRW Associates, which was approved by the City Council in May, the review came after several incidents involving the Ferndale Police Department over the last few years.

The completed review was presented to the city at a special meeting in August. In the review, the Police Department was given 25 recommendations that KRW felt could improve it.

There were both positive and negative key points in the KRW report, which included the lack of diversity in the force, an erosion of trust between citizens and the department, excellent response time for calls, friendly officers, and the department needing to improve its relationship with the media.

City Manager April Lynch said that the city is happy with the results.

“It was exactly what we needed,” she said. “We knew we already had a very strong department, but we knew that we had room for growth and development, and I think that their perspective was really helpful in helping us build on our foundation to make us even stronger, and I think that many of the recommendations that they made are going to be really helpful in … continuing moving our department forward.”

All recommendations from KRW can be found under the Aug. 13 special meeting agenda on the city of Ferndale’s website. Some of those recommendations include creating a mentoring program for employees; creating a citizens advisory committee; formally reviewing critical incidents; updating its use-of-force training and policies; and reviewing and updating department policies, including posting them online.

Posting policies online is something that Police Chief Vincent Palazzolo said the department has been working on for the past two years.

“All of the policies that we have right now currently have been vetted by our attorneys, and we looked at them to make sure that we weren’t giving away any tactical secrets, which there are very few, but those are all ready too,” he said. “As soon as we flip the switch, they’ll be on our website and you can look through all of them.”

Palazzolo said that KRW’s recommendations don’t have to be implemented, as they are only recommendations.

“They kind of looked at national standards and, remember, when we implement policies, some of them are from risk management, and sometimes they go off of the letter of the law, like the bare minimum; there are a lot of our policies (in) which the bare minimum just isn’t good enough, and we think there should be extra layers of precaution in there — extra things which make it a little bit safer for everybody,” he said.

An example of this is a recommendation of looking at the concept of differential police response to “guide dispatchers on when to dispatch a patrol unit on a call for police assistance.”

“Their intent was, ‘Hey, if we can keep cops on the road doing police work longer, then let’s not deploy them on a traffic accident where a vehicle was hit overnight. We can just take those reports over the phone.’ But realistically, I want our cops to go out there and meet the residents, and I want them to have that interaction and build those relationships outside of when we’re actually taking enforcement,” Palazzolo said.

“That’s part of what makes us unique, is we still go on every single one of those runs. Another one might be an identity theft. We could easily just take that over the phone, but if they want to come to the station or we want to go to them, we’re still more than willing to do that. So that was one that I kind of looked at, scratched my head and said, ‘We’re not that busy that we would think about implementing something like that.’”

On the use-of-force policies and training, Palazzolo at this time declined to comment on the subjects, as some recommendations in the report will be used as part of a testing process to promote a new captain, and the chief said he wants to hear what the lieutenants’ “true feelings” are on these issues without knowing what he thinks.

Lynch said there were some good recommendations dealing with training and building the department’s recruitment opportunities to make a more diverse workforce.

“We’re a small department and we’re bare bones, and so sometimes you can get caught in just getting out there every day and making sure that we’re seen and we’re doing as much prevention as we can and responding, but we’ve done a good job of being strategic, and I think this study helped us even further look at more of the strategy to make sure we maintain ourselves as a strong force within our community,” she said.

Lynch further said that the city will use the next few months to take a thorough look at the study and come up with some action plans.