During the transition to a new permanent chief for the Lawrence Police Department is an ideal time for city officials to consider some of the oversight issues outlined this week by the city’s auditor.
A report presented to Lawrence city commissioners by City Auditor Mike Eglinski focused on a number of ways the city can monitor and measure the performance of its police department. Eglinski gave top priority to three areas: how city managers measure and report on the department’s performance, how the police department handles complaints and how city leaders manage the police department’s workload.
He called special attention to how police department performance is measured. Although the city paid a consultant $60,000 in 2005 to develop a list of measurable goals for the police department, Eglinski said most of the recommendations of the report have not been implemented. Eglinski added that Lawrence doesn’t have any method for comparing the performance of its police department to similar departments in other cities or even national averages.
City commissioners concluded at their Tuesday meeting that they wanted more time to decide whether to have Eglinski do additional audit work on possible performance measures for the department. That decision will come by the end of the year, when commissioners approve audit topics for 2011.
We think a further audit of police department issues should be on the list. The deficiencies cited in Eglinski’s report should be of concern to city commissioners and administrators. When things are going smoothly, and particularly when the leadership of the department is stable, as it was for 23 years under former Police Chief Ron Olin, it is easy for city officials to keep their distance and let the department pretty much run itself.
However, ultimately, city commissioners and administrators are responsible for how the Lawrence Police Department operates and how it serves the people of Lawrence. It’s important that city officials provide reasonable oversight to make sure they are satisfied with the job the department is doing.
City Manager David Corliss has said he hopes to hire a new permanent police chief by the end of the year. Some of the concerns cited in the preliminary police audit are well worth pursuing, and now, as the police department transitions to new leadership, is the perfect time to do that.