Every month when the Chief releases his “Chief Talk” video I get a number of people still at the PD that send it to me with a message to the effect of, “get a load of this bullshit”. There were two videos that really, really set employees off. In the first video Chief Walther refused to acknowledge any role in the dipping morale within the organization. Making an “itty-bitty” sign with his index finger and thumb, he explains that he only exerts “this much” control over morale. It’s a total cop-out (pun intended). From people I’ve talked to, including those that retired recently, morale is at an all-time low and it’s effects are starting to be seen. In this month’s video, one effect dominates the video, increases in cases of the “Blue Flu”. Let’s look at what is said in the video.
1:51 – Sick time usage (independent of Covid) is up by about 200% on some squads. Let’s assume burn-out in law enforcement is not a cause, which I’ll get back to because the Chief does talk about it. There have been a number of studies about sick time usage since the start of the pandemic. Most studies show that sick time usage is up across all professions by 125 to 150%. There are a number of contributing factors. First, employees are more apt to stay at home when exhibiting minor symptoms, that they would have pushed through in the past, so not to infect others with Covid should they have it. Two, more parents are having to stay at home with kids, especially those kids experiencing school-mandated quarantine periods after a classroom exposure, even if they don’t ultimately contract Covid from the exposure. Three, employees are either self-quarantining or placed under an employer-mandated quarantine based on exposure, again, even if they don’t contract Covid. Let’s remember, the average quarantine period is between 5 and 10 days.
3:15 – Unscheduled retirements and self-demotions are talked about. Let me translate. “I wanted to work for another two years but there’s so much bullshit working here that I’m out”. I’ve talked to a number of people that retired recently, most of whom planned on staying longer or staying to participate in DROP. Of those I’ve talked to that left earlier than planned, none, and I mean ZERO, cited external factors like the anti-police sediment or the increased threat to them as a result of recent anti-police rhetoric. They all cited the “political bullshit” and/or “the shit-show” that is Scottsdale PD leadership, including the increases in work demands due to staffing.
3:58 – Emergency On-Call programs are discussed, the programs limited success and Chief Walther’s parrying analogy. “I roll out something, it works for a little while . . . parry that . . . it stops working”. Here’s how the Chief can and does affect morale: hold the narcissistic position that if my plan only works for a month, it can’t be because it was a bad plan, but it’s failing because the employees are actively working against it . . . thus working against me.
5:27 – “Painting a broad brush”. You see this all the time in talks by those in leadership: they repeat “it’s not everybody” doing the bad thing. If you believe it’s only a small group abusing sick time, why have the topic dominate your monthly video that you assume is such an important thing that you are going to mandate every employee watch it each month? If you really believe it’s a problem of just a few, why don’t you handle it with the few employees involved and discipline them accordingly? Oh, that’s right, because discipling an employee for taking a “mental health day” (as we often refer to them as) would work against the bullshit narrative that SPD leadership cares about the mental well-being of it’s employees. Once a few guys I know retire, remind me to tell you their stories of attempting to get mental health assistance at the PD.
6:18 – The Chief is going to come up with plans to keep people safe during these unprecedented staffing shortages. Earlier in the video he states that in his 28 years with Scottsdale, currently there are more unfilled positions than he can every remember, so much so that they had to institute these emergency measures to “keep people safe” on Patrol. Then why did you just create a Human Trafficking Unit and fully staff it, thus moving more resources from Patrol-based roles to Investigations? And just to be clear, in the 21 years I worked at Scottsdale, including about 15 years in Investigations, I can only remember one or two cases involving human trafficking that had a nexus in Scottsdale. In all my years, I can remember only 4 or 5 drop houses being discovered in Scottsdale and as a Computer Crimes Detective I only did computer forensics on a single case that had a tie to human trafficking. Human trafficking seems to be more of a hot political topic right now with the crisis at the boarder. I see the creation of the unit as a good way to score “brownie points” for those in leadership, garnering press . . . and I don’t know . . . setting yourself up to win an award like Chief of the Year maybe. And while the Human Trafficking Unit is fully staffed, traditional investigative units are running with skeleton crews like Fraud, Burglary and Domestic Violence. The citizens need to ask the Chief how many of the allotted detective position (referred to as PCNs) are actually filled for those other units. Then the citizens need to ask themselves if they are more likely to be the victim of a burglary, fraud, assault or domestic violence versus fearing being the victim of human trafficking.
10:00 – Ah, the “Fresh Faces” at the Academy. Everybody’s “Fresh Face” only lasts until they are messed with by those in leadership, often for personal and/or political reasons. And even if you aren’t one of the those targeted, the stories about those that have been move through the organization like wildfire, often inaccurately, thus doing more damage. When employees see how the organization treated people like Aaron Minor, while effectively ignoring the behavior of a Rich Slavin, faces become less fresh. Examples. How about when an IA supervisor is removed from his position because he found a protected supervisor (the supervisor is personal friends with the Deputy Chief) lied and targeted another employee. After the initial investigator refused to alter is final report on the matter a new IA investigator is assigned and totally exonerates the person.
Faces become less fresh. I can speak for myself, my fresh face turned into “salty old veteran” not because of the external demands of the job by the public, but because of the constant and repeated internal, political bullshit by the leadership and those holding a supervisory position.
Then there morale crushing actions like the debacle with the City denying cops that got Covid the ability to use the federally approved and funded Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employee Paid Leave Rights. You want to really piss of your cops, deny them the same ability all of the other police agencies in The Valley have, which is to not have to burn up to 80 of their own sick time if the catch Covid. In fairness, this was a decision make by the horrible former Chief Rodbell, but the fact that the city had to step in and change this decision all play a role in why those fresh faces soon disappear and how leadership decision DO play a major role in morale, regardless of what the Chief believes . . . er, says.
“What happened?” Hey Chief, you’ve been around long enough to know exactly what happened . . . and what happens. And even asking that question in a serious manner is why everybody jokes about how those in leadership must have been forced to have a frontal lobotomy in order to justify doing what they do and saying what they say.
11:40 and 14:14- I’ll defend Walther here. Staffing is not a Scottsdale issue, it’s a national issue. The question is what is Scottsdale PD doing to make the organization more desirable than agencies? Because I get the minutes of the meetings with the FOP and Chief, I can tell you what he’s not doing:
1. Chief Walther said that no retention or recruitment incentives. He cited “unfunded liability with PSPRS”. Other organizations are doing those things in the form of “signing bonuses” which are just that and don’t go towards PSPRS. You see, police recruits don’t start paying into PSPRS until they graduate from the Academy and are AZPOST certified. Pay and bonuses prior to certification don’t figure into calculated retirement benefits. Furthermore, if you think the $.0002 extra in retirement benefits per month should a signing bonus of $5,000 or $10,000 be used in the calculations is going to break the PSPRS bank, you’re crazy.
2. The City Manager also has the mindset that all City employee groups should benefit, not just Police and Fire. Fine, but like Walther said, nobody cares if a Starbucks worker isn’t there to do their job because “people’s lives aren’t at stake”. Nobody cares if the person working the front desk at Cactus pool isn’t there. They do care when response times from the PD are 4 or 5 minutes longer than usual.
3. “Chief Walther is aware of the pay discrepancy with the new lateral incentive and what that has caused for Officers in the 7-9 year pay range” (December 2021 FOP-Chief Meeting), yet no solution has been implemented and this was talked about back before I left in 2018.
4. “FOP has asked for the Off-Duty rate to be looked at again. Most surrounding agencies have a significantly higher rate and FOP hopes to match that and be closer to $60/hour. Additionally, the current Off-Duty contract does not include all City holidays so FOP has asked for this to also be changed to all City holidays and the Eve’s of select holidays.” That’s an easy change that has no bearing on the city or the city funds, it’s what outside organizations have to pay Scottsdale cops to work for them. And the fact that one of the wealthiest cities pays their cops a lower off-duty rate than less affluent cities is stupid.
Last issue, burn-out. The Chief at least mentions it . . . albeit in passing . . . in a rather dismissive manner. Here is how you ensure your employees get burnt-out, which then cascades into drops in morale, which decreases productivity and work product. I experienced this and in talking with many guys still working, it’s still happening. I’ll combine stories I heard from three different former co-workers I ran into when I was at the Phoenix Open this past weekend. To lay the groundwork: the overtime and off-duty surrounding the Barrett Jackson Car Auction and the Waste Management Phoenix Open used to be fiercely fought over. It used to be that for every OT/off-duty position at those events, 2 or 3 people were fighting over it. Hell, many cops got jammed up by IA for being insubordinate to supervisors after not getting an OT/off-duty position. Today, a fraction of position are being filled because nobody wants to work them anymore. They are burnt-out just filling in mandatory OT positions on Patrol. This year, on top of being forced to do OT to cover Patrol, cops were forced to do OT to cover the Open WHILE covering Patrol shortages. Here’s what happened to the people I talked to and I’ll combine the stories into one and refer to my example as Det. Smith.
Det. Smith was forced to cover a week of Patrol. Instead of covering for a shift that closer parallels his daytime detective position, he was forced to work a night shift and that night shift covers the weekend. Because of arcane scheduling rules (which would require a long explanation) Det. Smith now has to work from Saturday night at 4pm to Sunday morning at 2am. Then they have off Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, returning to work Thursday night at 4pm through Saturday morning at 2am in 10 hour shifts. That forced shift was provided to them four weeks in advance and Det. Smith made the proper alterations in child care, school and other personal issues. Then, on Monday evening he was called at home and ordered to work the Phoenix Open all day on Tuesday and Wednesday because those tasked with filling WMPO position failed to do so and were now scrambling for bodies. So now, Det. Smith worked until 2am Sunday morning, then had to work a full 10 hours shift at the Open on Tuesday and Wednesday. Det. Smith was suppose to get off at 8pm Wednesday night, but due to staffing shortage, was extended until 10pm Wednesday night. After dropping equipment off and getting home and to bed, it was now past midnight on Thursday. Det. Smith tried catching up on sleep, waking at 10am Thursday morning . . . four hours before he had to return, to now work a shift until 2am that morning. This continued until he covered his last Patrol shift, getting off at 2am Sunday morning. Then, after having one day to recover, return back to his normal detective shift Monday through Thursday. All this because (1) the PD is short staffed, (2) last minutes failures to adequately staff an annual city event and (3) to help ensure corporate America cashed in with the Phoenix Open. Also, the Chief has the ability to give any employee a “Commander Excusal Day”, which is effectively saying in this case, just stay home on the Monday you would have had to return to your detective position and we will pay you.
That’s how you burn out your employees, how you ensure their “fresh faces” disappear, why morale plummets and why you can’t retain and hire people . . . not to mention keeping “unscheduled retirements” from happening.
But remember . . . Chief Walther only has (thumb and finger together with 1mm between them) – this much- control over a person’s morale and the morale of the organization.
And let me state this again . . . I post this stuff for all my friends (and not friends) still at the PD that don’t have a voice. That if they used their voice would be marginalized, disciplined, demoted, suspended, fired and deemed a malcontent.