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Editor's note

July 10, 2005

Dear Honorable Mayor and City Council Members

RE Vote of &

No Confidence&

in Chief Mike Bianca

The members of the Ashland Police Association are deeply concerned with the direction and management of the Ashland Police Department. The ultimate management of the department rests with the police chief. Unfortunately, Chief Bianca&

s decisions and actions have resulted in a loss of confidence in his ability to effectively lead the Ashland Police Department. We have attempted on several occasions to work with the city administrator to resolve this issue. We do not agree with the conclusions the city administrator has reached regarding the last incident in which Chief Bianca exercised his leadership and authority, particularly when the city administrator admits that he doesn&

t have the knowledge or experience to evaluate police policies, practices and procedures. The membership does not this issue or vote lightly. Our vote is based upon each individual&

s concern as well as overall concerns.

These concerns are as follows

1. Police Tactics and Safety

On at least three occasions, the chief has responded to high-risk calls and took actions which placed himself and others in dangerous and unsafe situations. The chief, on at least one of these incidents, ignored department protocol regarding incident command, and placed himself and others in jeopardy by entering into a situation where he failed to be fully briefed on the incident and response of the department before taking action. His actions unnecessarily placed himself and others in greater danger than that which existed prior to his arrival, as well as placing individuals and the city in a position of greater civil liability.

If the chief is called upon to &

lead by example,&

his example is that critical incident protocols do not need to be followed and that officer safety is not a high priority in these circumstances. Obviously, police officers assume risks, which are fundamental to the nature of law enforcement. Those natural risks are not the issue. Officers have been killed and injured during these types of incidents, which resulted in establishing protocols to handle these types of situations. The reckless actions of the chief, which needlessly increased those natural risks, are the issue. This is especially the case where the chief&

s actions were contrary to the training and protocols established by the Department of Public Safety Standard and Training, as well as by our own department, and put in place for our safety, as well as for the citizens we serve. The chief&

s actions demonstrated total disregard for his own personal safety, as well as for the officers he has been selected to lead.

The chief needs to function as a coach, mentor, cheerleader and advocate. In short, a strong leader. The membership feels that when they do have to resort to the use of lethal force to protect themselves or another person, they would have no support from the chief or from the city. This belief quickly becomes an officer-safety issue, as it may very well cause the hesitation that allows the injury or death of a civilian or officer. It is imperative that officers have the support of their community and department leadership to make those split-second decisions with confidence. Obviously, this is a huge concern.

2. Personnel Decision

Numerous personnel actions in this past year have raised concerns as to whether the chief is acting in the best interest of the department and the city, or whether those decisions are personally motivated.

For example, the chief retained a probationary employee who was unable to pass the required field-testing segment against the requirements set forth in the state-designed and recommended department-adopted training program. This segment is designed to measure an individual&

s ability to successfully function as a police officer. Also, this segment of training uses the department&

s specially trained and experienced officers to conduct the training and evaluation, and to ultimately render a pass or fail evaluation. The resulting unanimous recommendation from the field training officers that this new officer be relieved of duty went unheeded by the chief. The chief&

s disregard for the findings of the field training officers appeared to represent personal favoritism by the chief regarding this individual. Although this employee was ultimately relieved from duty after failing extended training not offered to other trainees, the chief went so far as to find this individual a job with the City of Ashland in another department. To our knowledge, no other probationary employee has received this type of special treatment.

In another incident, the chief hired an individual who passed all of the pre-employment testing including the physical agility test. The chief continuously made personal derogatory and hostile comments to and about the officer concerning his weight, even though this officer weighs less now than when he was hired by the chief and continues to lose weight. It was made very clear by the chief that he does not find this effort to be good enough. The chief has gone so far as to threaten to fire the employee.

Chief recently promoted an unqualified officer to the rank of sergeant. Chief Bianca touted the officer&

s loyalty and courage to justify his decision to promote the individual. We learned later that this promotion was made while disregarding the advice given to Chief Bianca by the city&

s personnel department and certain police department managers concerning the officer&

s lack of qualifications and ability to meet the necessary requirements to even take the exam for sergeant. This sergeant has been given five years to meet the necessary qualifications. The new unqualified sergeant will now be expected to lead. If the individual follows Chief Bianca&

s example, how many officers will this individual endanger with this position of higher responsibility that they were never qualified for to begin with? What happens if this individual doesn&

t meet the minimum qualifications within the five-year period? How many special compensations will be made in the future by Chief Bianca?

Also, the chief just rehired a prior employee who was not required to test or even apply for the job. This was done against the recommendations of other members of the management and staff. Based on the chief&

s history, we question whether this new employee will be required to undergo the field-training program. What happens if the program recommends that this individual not be retained?

3. Staffing Issues

Chief Bianca has put not only his staff own at risk by failing to provide enough patrol officers on the streets, but the safety of the entire community as well. The chief has hired management positions to try and help him run the department, but has failed to fill the ranks below, the ones actually keeping the peace. We recently learned from the city administrator that Chief Bianca has never even asked for additional positions for our department, leaving us in a position of too few officers on the streets. After the chief unsuccessfully attempted to promote a sergeant into a vacant lieutenant position, he changed the title of the position in order to promote a sergeant because none of the sergeants met minimum qualifications for the lieutenant position. In another incident, the chief filled a vacancy by hiring another sergeant instead of replacing a patrol officer. Also, Chief Bianca elected to start another sergeant hiring process when he learned that at least two of our sergeants were seeking employment elsewhere. This was done knowing that there were two police officer openings plus two other officers applying for jobs at other agencies. It takes a significant period of time to get an officer trained to be capable to perform the job, but Chief Bianca didn&

t feel the need to start a hiring process for any of these patrol openings. Even with this increase in management positions, there are times when no supervisor is on duty. Instead, an OIC (officer in charge) fills the role of manager.

Minimum staffing of patrol officers is ran on most shifts, often by the city paying overtime to hold over officers or to call them in early for their next shift. This practice is followed even when a supervisor is absent from a shift, making it necessary for an officer to be paid overtime to fill a supervisory role that they should seldom have to do. This increase in overtime is not only becoming an officer safety issue, but a disservice to the community we serve. There are many solutions to this problem and the members of the association feel that Chief Bianca has failed to address them. In fact, Chief Bianca has only continued to make things worse by falsely leading the city council into believing that staffing is not an issue for the department, further hindering our chances at obtaining adequate patrol coverage. This staffing problem is not something that has just occurred on Chief Bianca&

s watch, however. It has been an ongoing problem that the chief should have been aware of since he had been in the management of the department before assuming the role of chief. Chief Bianca has also reorganized the department so that the budget is supporting a ratio of almost one supervisor to every two patrol officers. An average department supports one supervisor to every six to eight patrol officers. Chief Bianca has also increased the duties of the detectives. This increase in work is a result [of] replacing the retiring lead detective by assigning a sergeant in to take his place. (Sergeants traditionally do not take case assignments, resulting in one less detective to respond to case assignments.)

4. Leadership

Officers that have been hired from outside agencies have come to the Ashland Police Department with high hopes of APD being a great place to work. They bring with them extensive knowledge, experience and training. Based on their comments, they have all quickly learned that this department does not have the solid leadership from its chief, leaving the department in turmoil. With great disappointment from what they thought the department was going to be, they have been quickly seeking jobs elsewhere, taking their valuable knowledge, experience and training with them.

The association membership is painfully aware of the negative image surrounding the Ashland Police Department. The department has become the laughingstock of police agencies throughout the state. This fact makes it extremely difficult to attract quality applicants for the position of police officer with the Ashland Police Department. As mentioned, this adds to the difficulty in retaining quality recruits and seasoned officers. This administration demands loyalty and support, but offers none in return. It has been verbalized that our membership desperately needs to feel supported. This support needs to come from the city government, the public and, perhaps most of all, the chief and his staff. This, along with numerous similar situations, is leading to a condition where a dangerously low morale is present, especially when the chief appears to ostracize and punish any member of his management team or non-management personnel that disagrees with his perspective or direction. For instance, for a period of time, three sergeants whom the chief believed were leaving the department for jobs with other agencies were given letters advising them they were excluded from making &

executive decisions&

and that he was going to start working on his &

new management team.&

Two of those sergeants had not even submitted their resignation letters. When two other members of the management team disagreed with the chief, they were no longer allowed to attend management meetings. Such disregard for the leadership and unity of the management team by Chief Bianca is terribly destructive for the department.

Chief Bianca disregards the absolute need for effective communication between himself, his management staff and the line personnel. There is no positive feedback whatsoever and the general consensus of our membership is that they have no idea of the direction the chief is taking the department. Another example is that, despite current budget constraints, the chief is currently looking to replace our current uniform (our current uniform is widely accepted as being both practical and functional by our membership) for a different uniform without even seeking input from our membership first.

In summary, by examining the multitude of serious concerns that exist between Chief Bianca and those in his charge, we need to go on record as an association by stating that it is in the best interest of all concerned that something be done soon. Without speaking collectively, we would fear retribution if we were to speak individually. The department is hemorrhaging good people as we speak and we simply cannot afford to procrastinate. The association has already listed several specific areas of concern and has clearly outlined destructive patterns of behavior.

Over the past month, the association executive board has met with the city administrator, the mayor and the city attorney in an attempt to discuss issues and to determine possible courses of action. These meetings have provided little, if any, confidence that our concerns will be taken seriously. Statements have since been made by the city administrator that the city stands squarely behind Chief Bianca, that Chief Bianca is on &

solid ground&

and that the city administrator knows of no concerns regarding Chief Bianca&

s leadership voiced by the police department. All these statements were made public in the Daily Tidings after numerous lengthy meetings with members of the Ashland Police Department from all levels. This fact greatly concerns the association membership. The consensus is that all efforts to work out our concerns with the city have failed.

As an association, we have been asking ourselves this question &

Do we have the leadership we need?&

The answer is a resounding NO! Chief Bianca has demonstrated patterns of poor judgment and decision-making throughout his tenure as chief. In fact, after Chief Bianca was made aware of the association concerns, Chief Bianca took a 30-day leave of absence instead of attempting to resolve the issues. Our membership believes that for Chief Bianca to simply agree to cease and desist in those specific areas of concern already mentioned would only serve to address symptoms rather than underlying causes, which is the greater concern. Our membership believes that if a probationary employee were to have made similar decisions to those made by Chief Bianca, that employee would be terminated. Couple this with the fact Chief Bianca has many years of law enforcement experience that the new employee would not be able to draw from. Shouldn&

t the person be responsible for the health and safety of the employees of this organization be held to a higher standard than a probationary employee?

It is the consensus of the association that Chief Bianca&

s leadership ability will never safeguard those in his charge and that there will always be an atmosphere of fear and distrust associated with his administration. These, as well as other issues, have resulted in an overwhelming vote of &

No Confidence&

in Chief Bianca&

s ability to fulfill the duties of his position as chief of police for the City of Ashland. The membership do hereby ask you to consider these issues presented herein and take the appropriate action of recommending the removal of Michael Bianca as chief of police of the Ashland Police Department.

Respectfully submitted on behalf of the Ashland Police Association membership.

(signed) Steve MacLennan, president

Related articles appearing in the Daily Tidings

; July 11, 2005

Police association&

s grievances have been around since 2003; July 12, 2005

; July 14, 2005

Ashland Police Rift Is It Policy Or Philosophy?; July 25, 2005

; July 25, 2005

Bianca rally II supporters only; July 30, 2005

; July 30, 2005