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Lehigh Valley

Lower Saucon Police Dept. Needs 'More Positive Leadership Style, Less Micro-Management,' Study Says

LOWER SAUCON TWP., Pa. - Nearly all types of reviews contain the good, the bad. and sometimes even the ugly.

For the Lower Saucon Township Police Department (LSTPD), a $34,000 assessment and study of staffing, management and use of resources approved by the township council last fall, found Lower Saucon police officers and civil staff employees are an engaged and dedicated staff committed to providing high-quality service to the community.

However, the study conducted by Matrix Consulting of Worcester, Mass. and presented to council Wednesday by company president Richard Brady, revealed the police department needs a more positive leadership style including less micro-management and more autonomous duties involving the community.

Brady said his company's study was an organizational assessment of the LSTPD providing an analysis of the organizational culture and management of the police department. He added the study's findings are designed to assist the LSTPD to make appropriate changes to improve its organizational focus, functioning and service to the community.

The methods used by Matrix's project team included internal and external interviews, an anonymous employee survey, and data collection. Notably, the anonymous survey had a 95 percent employee response.

Employees also feel the following as per their responses:

    -All employees said the LSTPD meets or exceeds service expectations for the community.
    -Respondents said maintaining strong ties with the local community as something positive about the department
    -78 percent reported that community policing is a high priority in the department
    -94 percent said they planned on a career working for Lower Saucon.

The department is accredited by the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Commission, its orders manuals are up to date, and the department has very few community-generated complaints; it  is ahead of similar municipal police departments in its use of technology and resources. The LSTPD also provides an overall  high level of training for its employees.

Alternatively, issues to be addressed by the department include:

    -The need for formal performance goals
    -Increased community engagement by the chief of police
    -More autonomy for officers to solve community problems or direct their own work
    -More encouragement from management to solve community issues
    -Better distribution of  training and collateral duties
    -Changing the perception the promotional process is biased

The study offered recommended improvements to address the above issues including:

    -Strategic planning and a goal-setting process
    -Increase time in the field for the chief out on patrol with officers

A total of 47 short and long term recommendations were outlined in the report with one of the most important being an improvement in the management of staff resources. Some of the changes could be done almost immediately while others may take a year to implement, said Brady.

Reacting to the study, Chief of Police Guy Lesser said he looked forward to the assessment and hoped to use it as a basis for improving his department. He said he and his supervisory team manage and set high mandatory expectations within the department.

He said one of his goals is to spend more time in the community and to find out what can be done to address the micro-management complaints from employees. 

Lesser also said it is refreshing to gain an outside perspective on the LSTPD since the last police study was done in the early 1990s.

He said his next step is to meet with the township manager to properly evaluate the study's recommendations and establish a timeline for the implementation of changes.

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