Report: APD's ranks divided


Published: Tuesday, July 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 30, 2003 at 11:51 p.m.
ALACHUA - The police department does not have a ticket quota system, but it does have low morale and some serious communication problems that have split the ranks, an investigation revealed.
The investigation also indicated the department conducted an inappropriate surveillance of city of Alachua resident Leslie Richardson, a Gainesville police officer, on a flimsy allegation that Richardson was making traffic stops on N. Main Street in Alachua.
State Sen. Rod Smith, D-Alachua, conducted the investigation after allegations arose of ticket quotas and unfair treatment of officers who are members of the Fraternal Order of Police union.
Smith concluded in his report, released late Monday afternoon, that improved communication is needed between Chief Robert Jernigan and Maj. Steve Hammonds and the officers under them.
"There is something amiss at the Alachua Police Department," Smith wrote. "There is a demonstrable division among the ranks which must be closed for the good of this agency."
City Manager Clovis Watson said Monday he will work with the department and others to develop a plan to resolve the problems.
Watson said most of the issues stem from poor communication and are surmountable.
"It didn't surprise me at all that there was a finding of no quotas," he said. "There certainly are some issues, and I will work with the police department to address all of those concerns and do what is best for the department and the community. Communication is the biggest issue. We will put measures together to facilitate the movement of the police department in a positive manner."
Smith found that much of the division revolves around Hammonds, who was hired last year to replace Watson when he was named city manager. Watson had spent a lengthy policing career at APD and had risen to the rank of major.
Hammonds has tried to formalize management at the department with the goal of increasing productivity and accountability, Smith found. Watson had a more informal and accessible management style, he wrote.
The changes were accepted by newer officers but were viewed by veterans as micromanagement. Smith wrote that a perception exists that Hammonds shows favoritism to some officers.
Smith said he is "convinced that (Hammonds) is a capable administrator who is committed to the goal of making the department more professional and productive."
But Smith added he was "disturbed to learn that (Hammonds) so grossly underestimates the number of officers who complain of low morale and admit that their enthusiasm for the job has recently declined. Contrary to (Hammonds') perceptions, the problems of morale and loss of job enthusiasm are not isolated to a handful of disgruntled or unproductive workers."
An APD dispatcher Monday night said Hammonds was on vacation this week. Jernigan could not be reached for comment.
The investigation stemmed from allegations made to the City Commission by Gainesville Police Officer Jeff McAdams, a top state leader of the police union.
McAdams alleged a quota system for traffic tickets was used at APD. He based that allegation on a memo from Lt. Glenn Hammond regarding productivity. McAdams could not be reached for comment Monday.
Smith wrote that the productivity directive does not equate to a quota but found that poor communication gave the impression to some officers that a minimum number of tickets should be written on a shift.
A key allegation involved unwarranted surveillance of Richardson over an unfounded complaint that he was ticketing drivers in Alachua.
Smith found that, at a minimum, APD gave the impression an official investigation was being conducted against Richardson.
A dispatcher told Smith she was instructed to document whenever Richardson called the department to speak to an officer - a practice not routinely done when other people call in - and report it in a memo.
The documentation was "unwarranted and disturbing," Smith wrote, adding the entire Richardson matter was poorly handled by APD.
"He is a citizen of Alachua, a police officer of the city of Gainesville and has been subjected to unfair treatment," Smith wrote. "Surely no citizen, much less a police officer from a sister agency, should have been observed, much less investigated, on an unsubstantiated, uncorroborated allegation from an unidentified source."
Watson said the report is a fair and unbiased assessment of the police department. He said he plans to fully evaluate the report before developing a plan to mend the department.
"It's difficult for me to say what steps I will take until I have the opportunity to evaluate the report closely as well as speak to Chief Jernigan to determine how we will address those issues," Watson said.
Cindy Swirko can be reached at 374-5024 or swirkoc@gvillesun.com.

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