ROSWELL, Ga. — For all its much-publicized shortcomings over the past year, the Roswell Police Department maintains a solid record for professionalism and public safety.
That’s the finding of the public safety consulting firm hired to assess the agency after a series of incidents led to widespread media attention and criticism.
The Center for Public Safety Management released the report this fall, and representatives from the organization met with city staff, including Police Chief James Conroy, last week to give an overview of the findings.
Former Police Chief Rusty Grant called for the analysis last July after videos surfaced showing incidents involving on-duty officers violating or stretching standard practices.
The first incident — and by far the most widely circulated — involved two officers using a coin flip app to decide the fate of a woman pulled over for speeding. Other videos showed a K-9 ignoring his handler and repeatedly biting a teenager, a 13-year-old boy intentionally being kept in a freezing car, and muted body camera footage when an off-duty officer was pulled over on suspicion of DUI.
Speaking at the Dec. 9 City Council work session, the representatives focused on changes that would have the greatest financial impact on the city.
“When we were contacted, the city and the department were very upfront about [the incidents],” said Carol E. Rasor-Cordero, senior public safety consultant for the Center for Public Safety Management. “Overall, I am very impressed with the Roswell Police Department. Yes, there had been mistakes that were made, but they are hardworking men and women.”
Through data gathering methods and interviews, the analysis covers the department’s staffing, organizational structure, workload and operations. As a part of the process, a draft report was sent to the Roswell Police Department June 20 to review for clarification and verification.
One of the most impressive findings from the report, Rasor-Cordero said, is that the city has a “very, very” low crime rate.
The only city with a lower crime rate is Johns Creek, she said.
However, there are still areas for improvement, a full 83 areas the report recommends changing.
“That sounds like a lot,” Rasor-Cordero said. “But that does not mean that there’s 83 things wrong with your police department. It is our recommendations, considerations, that you may want to think about to enhance the performance.”
Rasor-Cordero said she and her team strongly recommend the department fill the vacant lieutenant’s position in the office of professional standards. They also recommend standardized progressive discipline to help improve transparency and morale in the department, which a previous report cited as low.
More hires, in general, is a concern for the police department, the report shows.
It’s a problem facing police departments across the nation, Rasor-Cordero said. When searching for new officers, she said, the department should consider attracting underrepresented populations for both sworn and civilian posts so the department better reflects the demographics of the city.
Other recommendations include creating an internal affairs unit, reviewing the department’s pay scale, adding an officer to the community relations unit and consider holding the Citizen Police Academy twice a year. The report also warns against building the new 911 center too close to other government buildings.
Councilman Marcelo Zapata said he was concerned that the report didn’t seem to cover some of the department’s review processes which led to the incidents that triggered the analysis.
Rasor-Cordero said her team did not have an opportunity to talk with the former police chief because he had retired before the analysis could begin.
“All we would get is anecdotal information,” she said. “This was a tough study to do because of the timing of it. You had a police chief and assistant chief that left. We were called in when you had an interim chief and interim assistant chief. Then, our company did your police selection, which resulted in Chief Conroy…
“To look back and to report on what the prior chief did or did not do would really require us to have a sit-down talk with him, because I have a lot of questions to ask him. But that was not within the scope of the project.”
Conroy, who was sworn in this summer, said the police department has already completed or is in the process of completing 60 of the 83 recommendations listed in the report. He added that he is conducting his own review of the department outside the Center for Public Safety Management analysis.
“It says a lot to me when a city and police department is willing to have an outside entity come in and take a hard look at every part of their process, procedures and personnel,” Rasor-Cordero said. “That takes a lot of courage. And a lot of cities and police departments won’t do that.”
To view the full report, visit roswellgov.com/pdgapanalysis.