NORWALK, Conn. — The Norwalk Daily Voice accepts signed, original letters to the editor. Letters may be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To the Editor,
In a recent letter, Norwalk Police Sgt. Thomas Roncinske Jr. (president of the Norwalk Police Union) persuasively argued that the police commission's refusal to promote able men and women to captain undermined our police department. We agree. Relying on a 17-year-old study, the police commission has refused to promote the qualified officers who successfully passed the test for promotion. But the current organizational structure of the police department results in an overbroad span of management control and, we fear, hampers the police department's ability to promote public safety. The current police department employs one deputy chief and 12 lieutenants who report to the deputy. This structure results in a 12 to one "span of control."
While the 1995 study by the International Association of Chiefs of Police calls for a span of control in the range of nine to one or six to one (nine rank-and-file officers for every superior officer), some experts believe a city like Norwalk needs five to one or three to one ratio to effectively manage the force. Furthermore, we are not aware of any other community in Fairfield County which has adopted the "no captains" policy embraced by Norwalk. In fact, other departments recognize the rank as a critical component to run a successful department. (Interestingly, the city has sometimes ignored the "captains ban" since the study was published. Some might think that selectively following the recommendations of an outdated study evidences more a "who you know" philosophy, rather than a sincere belief that a "bottom heavy" police force is the most effective way to promote public safety.) The city has ignored this study and has promoted both captains and deputy chiefs since 1996.
Expanding the span of control of the police force would allow superior officers to focus on critical needs – investigations, street patrols, detective work, and administration. We believe these tasks are key to tackling the ever increasing crime rate in our city. The span of control is excessive for the deputy chief to have efficient and effective direction, coordination/oversight – while assisting the chief with day to day operations and with short, medium and long term visioning of the department which captains carry out. The short term immediate need calls for action. We have lieutenants investigating lieutenants – not very good for morale – and one captain retiring in December.
There has been a promotional list in effect since November 2010 that expires in November 2012. To date, no one on this list has been promoted effectively ending their career at the lieutenant rank. We also believe that every organization needs a recognized and open "career path" to reward loyal and dedicated public servants, promote management succession and build the management infrastructure to respond to critical situations. In 2010, there was equal opportunity in taking an exam for the rank of captain but due to the commission's rejection of any promotion to captain, some made the choice not to take the exam and some did.
The police commission and the current administration will argue that the first in line to be captain was offered the deputy chief position but it was declined. It was declined due to family/personal reasons. If this person was good enough to be deputy chief, they must be a highly qualified candidate for a captain position. Let's also not forget that a captain position is not appointed by the mayor and police commission where deputy chief is and subjected to politics. What is wrong with a person declining a promotion for better career development? Why not build a better foundation to a career before moving to second in command of an organization? Is it so wrong for one to put family first, career second? There is "choice" in taking a position that does not involve politics and one that is subject to political rhetoric.
When employees believe that they have hit the glass ceiling and there is little room for advancement, the organization suffers. We have already seen many excellent and loyal public servants move on to greener pastures because of the absence of an open career path. Overturning the captains ban would address this problem.
At the end of the day, we all want the same thing – an effective, efficient and able police force protecting the public. We want our officers to stop crime from happening before it occurs. We want our officers to solve crimes that have occurred and bring those responsible to justice. We owe it these men and women to give them the tools and the opportunities to succeed.