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Police Department Gets High Marks In Organizational Study



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UPDATE: This version of the story contains comments from the police union president which were not available before the deadline for the November 30 print edition of The Bee.  

The Newtown Police Department has received high marks in an “organizational diagnostic” study of the unit conducted by an associate professor of criminal justice, who performed a similar study of the department in the spring of 2012, which found it to then be a dysfunctional organization.

James E. McCabe, PhD, of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, headed the study of the 45-member department. The study was prepared free of charge to the town.

In the 50-page report, Dr McCabe writes that the police department is “an organization that is healthy and vibrant, and one where the sworn officers enjoy high levels of workplace satisfaction and morale. The change from 2012 to 2018 is simply remarkable.”

Dr McCabe added, “The previous levels of distrust, miscommunication, and dysfunction appear to have abated. The quantitative results for the survey show significant improvements in critical areas, and the qualitative data gleaned from the focus groups show dramatic shift in the organizational climate of the department.”

Data analyzed in the study was gathered through questionnaires and discussion groups.

Concerning the study, First Selectman Dan Rosenthal commented, “My tenure on the Police Commission, and certainly my current role, has provided me with a close look at the turnaround in culture at the (Newtown Police Department). The McCabe report affirms this, and I appreciate the effort of the department leadership and the Police Commission for their commitment to continuous improvement and transparency. I’m happy for the men and women of the (department), and by extension our community, that things are materially better, and the progress continues.”

Police Commission Chairman Joel Faxon commented, “We were very pleased to see the tangible improvement in performance and morale at the Newtown police department over the last several years.”

Mr Faxon added, “The future is very bright, and this report is excellent news for the citizens of our town. Chief Viadero and his administration have been instrumental in leading from the front, and the officers and supervisors have responded with excellent work. The [Police Commission] is very optimistic and thanks all members of the agency for their dedication to Newtown.”

Police Patrol Officer Leonard Penna, who is president of the Newtown Police Union, said, "It comes as no surprise that the McCabe report from September 2018 shows a significant positive change with morale and overall job satisfaction [compared to] the original McCabe report conducted in 2012. The Newtown Police Union's relationship with the administration of the police department has been harmonious since James Viadero assumed the position of police chief. The union continues to work with Chief Viadero in a positive direction to maintain the new level of morale and job satisfaction, as well as rectify any issues that may arise in a constructive manner." 

Of the study, Police Chief James Viadero said, “I am happy that the department is moving in the right direction, and... I intend on addressing some of the issues brought up by the officers during the interviews.”

“I am most pleased with the morale scores and job satisfaction scores of the officers. As stated, the service the officers provide to the community is second to none, and this is truly reflected in the study,” the chief added.

The chief said, “It is always good to get an outside, impartial view of how the department is doing. That was the main impetus for having Dr McCabe redo the study that was performed in 2012.”

2012 Study

In 2012, a study of working conditions experienced by rank-and-file officers at the police department found that police were then working in an environment of low morale fueled by a high level of employee dissatisfaction.

In the 2012 report, Dr McCabe recommended that the Police Commission oversee a process intended to repair a perceived lack of trust and lack of organizational support between the police command staff and the rank-and-file officers of the department.

In that 2012 report, Dr McCabe wrote, “The command staff of the Newtown [police department] needs to reenergize their leadership roles in the organization. Leadership means motivating, building relationships, and understanding the people that you are charged with leading.”

In the recent report, dated September 2018, Dr McCabe wrote, “It was evidently clear that the Newtown Police Department is significantly different than six years ago. While the personnel are essentially the same, the organizational climate, as measured by morale; general satisfaction; and anecdotes from the officers themselves is more positive.”

He added, “The horrific (Sandy Hook School) tragedy experienced by the men and women of the department does not seem to be having a negative effect on their well-being. On the contrary, attitudes are positive, the workforce is stable, and the general impression is that personnel are content with their jobs and value the service they provide to the community.”

Last spring, police officials announced that Dr McCabe was conducting a second study of the police department to compare where the organization stood then in comparison to early 2012. Dr McCabe conducted the 2012 study when Michael Kehoe was the police chief. Mr Viadero replaced Mr Kehoe as police chief in January 2016.

Prior to his academic career, Dr McCabe completed 21 years of service with the New York City Police Department, where he held numerous command-level positions, including the Commanding Officer of Labor Relations, Commanding Officer of the Training Bureau, Commanding Officer of the 110th Precinct in Elmhurst/Corona, Queens. He was also the Executive Officer of the Police Commissioner’s Office and the 113th Precinct in South Jamaica. He retired in 2006 from the New York Police Department at the rank of Inspector.

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