The primary focus at The Integrity Report has been addressing department-wide issues in general; however, these issues are most applicable to the sworn sector of the department. We wanted to specifically address our civilian sector, too; without them, the department would be even more in shambles than it currently is (if that’s possible!).
When we discuss civilian employees, who do we mean specifically? Police Aides, dispatches, administrative assistants, evidence and fleet technicians. Because of their support staff roles, we feel their concerns have a tendency to be overlooked by command staff (who is currently fixated on the sworn staffing situation). Here’s a brief list (and by no means “all inclusive”) of issues command staff needs to address to improve the productivity and retention of the backbone of ASUPD–the civilian employees.
- Pay Raises: Yes, we know everyone wants a pay raise, but the civilian employees definitely deserve one. While officers have been getting pay raises (albeit insignificant ones), the PAs and dispatchers have not been receiving any sort of pay raise, and also make considerably less than their peers (see the salaries tables located here). If you want to hire and retain best employees, you have to give them an incentive to stay!
- Training: PAs have been routinely used to supplement the low patrol numbers, which means they are regularly dispatched to calls in which they are ill-equipped to respond (dispatched to violent subject calls, often backup for an officer when they’re going hands on). Give them taser training as well as some advanced cuffing techniques, so they can be utilized effectively. PAs and dispatchers should also be incorporated into sworn training when possible.
- Use them effectively: There are lots of PAs with former law enforcement/military experience, or highly educated/specialized degrees who are not being utilized effectively. There are many ways the department could deploy these people with experience, especially in a way that would be helpful during a staffing crisis. Instead of ignoring or discounting their experience, let them use it to make the department more effective and efficient.
- Allow for career development…if they want it: Allow the civilian employees the opportunity to USE their tuition reimbursement or enroll in additional training, when possible. It is difficult to schedule classes/training when your workweek can change at the drop of the hat to suit the department’s needs. Also recognize that some people DON’T want career advancement for whatever reason–its their retirement job, they’re going to school for another career field–whatever. Constantly hounding employees to test for officer positions is pointless for people who don’t want to work in the field or are using ASUPD as a vehicle for somewhere else.
- They’re the “eyes and ears” for the department…but they’re not sources of intel: Civilian employees are used as “eyes and ears” for the sworn staff; there are easily more civilian employees than sworn, so they can observe and report activity that patrol wouldn’t normally see. However, just because they see or hear a lot does NOT make them a source of intel or gossip! There has been several supervisors who have tried to use PAs or dispatchers to spy on other employees for the purposes of bullying/getting an officer in trouble. This is absurd! It’s not high school anymore, and the civilian employees don’t want to be involved in departmental drama or gossip.
- Supervise their supervisors: This is a huge one. Make sure the people that supervise civilian employees know what they’re doing and know HOW to manage people. How long did a former dispatch supervisor terrorize her employees before she left? How many complaints were made against PA Lead Atkinson or Nasca before someone realized they were NOT good supervisors? Civilian supervisors should be instructed how to properly and unfairly evaluate employees using a standardized method in addition to receiving training on how to manage people and resources effectively. Just because you have a civilian in a supervisor position does NOT mean he or she know how to do the job. (That being said…there are also some pretty stellar supervisors!!)
- APPRECIATE YOUR CIVILIAN EMPLOYEES!!: Some supervisors are excellent on giving accolades to their civilian employees when a major event transpires on the sworn side (Sgt. T was always giving out “atta boys” for this civilian employees)…but quite frankly, a lot of them don’t. You can (to an extent) mitigate low pay, poor working conditions–a myriad of other variables–IF you employees feel appreciated, invested, and are happy. This means giving them credit for great work they do, both visible or behind the scenes (look at how much work was put into revamping the evidence processing, fleet/equipment managing, or how much behind the scenes work the admin assistants do regularly). Their roles SUPPORT the function of the sworn side, so without them, the sworn side cannot perform their duties.