Ferndale police putting recommendations into practice

Department is seeking rare accreditation

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published April 17, 2019


FERNDALE — Last year, the Ferndale Police Department and the city brought in an independent firm to review the department’s procedures and policies.

That firm, KRW Associates, turned in a report in August with a list of 25 recommendations that Ferndale police should follow in order to improve the department. Police Chief Vincent Palazzolo gave a presentation at the April 8 City Council meeting on the progress being made with the recommendations.

One of the recommendations that was mentioned throughout the presentation was the process the department is going through to become accredited, which Palazzolo described as looking at almost every aspect of the Police Department, meeting a new set of standards and proving that the department has met them every year.

“It’s really going to help guide us moving forward as a 21st-century police department,” he said. “Currently in the state of Michigan, there’s 571 law enforcement agencies. There’s only 16 that are accredited through the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police. There’s about 26 that are in process. We’re one of that 26. So we’re really taking a step forward.”

Palazzolo said the accreditation process takes anywhere from 18 to 24 months.

“I think you’ll see that this will be a standard moving forward throughout the state, in the country, that you’re holding this type of accreditation, where somebody’s coming in from the outside, reviewing your policies and really looking at everything you’re going to do,” he said.

Palazzolo also touched on use-of-force training, and said that officers have completed Integrating Communications, Assessment and Tactics, or ICAT, training with online modules. He said officers will be doing practical-scenarios training with these methods in the summer.

“A perfect example of this would be an officer gets called to a house where somebody’s locked in a room with a knife. It’s not a situation we need to push forward, but you — time after time after time — you see these videos where these officers are pushing and putting themselves in bad situations, and then are being forced by their own hand to use some type of force, including deadly force. This ICAT model really takes a look at all the information (to) make better decisions, you know, give yourself a better reactionary gap and put other tools in there.”

The entire presentation by Palazzolo can be viewed on Ferndale’s YouTube page under the April 8 council meeting.

Councilwoman Raylon Leaks-May said she was particularly excited about the Leadership Advisory Council, which comprises one employee from each division of the Police Department and looks to improve different aspects of the department or complete special assignments, such as determining core values.

“With everything that’s kind of gone on, and in the past, between citizen and officer relations, to have that sort of open and transparent environment will be beneficial. I really appreciate that.”

Councilwoman Melanie Piana said she appreciated the due diligence put into pushing these recommendations and implementing them. For her, there are many layers of how to get residents’ concerns heard by the leadership of the Police Department.

“I guess I see it as a big change of how a resident can make sure that their concerns are adequately addressed and benchmarked against these accreditation principles that we are adopting,” she said.

“What I’ve heard over the years is that residents are not sure what happens to their complaint and does it actually go anywhere,” Piana continued. “It did go somewhere and it was addressed, but I don’t think it was this clear process for residents to understand, of how it will be discussed and approached and clearly vetted. And so the clarity of this whole process is what I am, on behalf of our residents and business owners, is what I really like.”

After these recommendations get put into place for a couple of years, Mayor Dave Coulter said he hopes they’ll be able to look back and see positive changes.

“My hope is maybe two things,” he said. “Internally, morale should improve to some degree as officers believe that the policies are fair and opportunities for them are fair … and then externally … the confidence of the community in the Police Department that things are transparent, that complaints are handled fairly and all those things also rises.”

When the department had the opportunity to seek accreditation, Palazzolo heard from some of his contemporaries that they felt it was a waste of time. He said he welcomed it wholeheartedly, and he believes it has done nothing but good for them so far. He also said the morale of the Ferndale Police Department is as high as it’s been since he’s been there.

It was noted that Palazzolo might return to the council to brief it again in six months on further progress in implementing the recommendations.