Transcript of Police Chief Michael Reese’s Statement before Council 20-MAR-2012
The following is a transcript of Police Chief Michael Reese’s statement before Council on Tuesday, March 20, 2012, regarding time card fraud by the Command Officers recently reported in the media and commented upon here. The statement is lengthy, so I am placing it in its own post. I will be following up on this in the next few days with more information and opinion regarding this matter. Corrections to the transcript are welcomed, but I believe I have the chief’s words 99.9% accurate at this time.
“Good evening Mr. Mayor, Members of Council and Mr. Vanderpool. Thank you for providing me this opportunity to come before you tonight to provide you with a summary of the unfortunate incident that has taken place within the Police Department. Before I start, I’d like to apologize to the Mayor, City Council and specifically the residents of Sterling Heights for the action of certain Command Officers assigned to the Police Operations Division which casts a negative image to the city and its police department. As Chief of Police, and a resident of this city, I’m embarrassed by the actions of these officers and can assure you this behavior will not be (tolerated) now or in the future.
In regards to the issue of time card misappropriations, tonight I would like to provide you with a summary as to how it was brought to my attention, the investigation, its conclusion, and the discipline that was implemented to the command officers involved.
On the evening of January 31st, 2012 I was advised by the President of the Police Officers Association that he had in his possession an anonymous letter, believed to be from a patrolman, claiming that a command officer assigned to police operations, specifically the day shift, was taking leave time in addition to his two and a half hour reduced work week. The additional time was not documented on his bi-weekly time card.
On February 1st, 2012, I forwarded a correspondence to the police department’s Special Investigations Bureau requesting that an investigation be conducted into the alleged allegations. The investigation involved 24 interviews, 23 of which were command officers, and one administrative secretary. All were assigned to the police operations division.
As the result of a thorough investigation, it was learned that most, if not all 21 command officers, in total, were conducting a practice of adding undocumented time off to their furlough time. The practice began sometime after (the) city implemented the reduced work week. (The) time ranged from a half hour to as much as two and a half hours. The practice was conducted periodically only when manpower allocations for command allowed, and there was no overtime paid as a result of this practice.
The level of responsibility for allowing this practice to begin and continue for approximately three months, increases with the rank of the officers involved. If the command officer participated, or had knowledge that this was occurring without participating, then that individual is also in violation. Likewise, the degree of participation does not lessen the violation.
Once the investigation was complete, I met several times with the city attorney, and the city’s labor attorney, to discuss discipline and how it would be implemented. During these discussions, the officers’ rights to due process under the collective bargaining agreement, the grievance process, and arbitration were also discussed. Basically, what could be implemented and survive the grievance and arbitration process. The conclusion was that the captain involved would be terminated or demoted. The lieutenants involved would receive a thirty day suspension, ten days would be held in reserve as a two-year probationary period. If the lieutenants involved are involved in any additional disciplinary action, over the next two years, the ten days held would be implemented immediately along with the additional discipline. The sergeants involved would receive a ten day suspension, with five days held in reserve for two years, again serving as a probationary period. The two sergeants not participating in the practice but having a knowledge of it would receive five day suspensions, with three days held in reserve.
It was determined that removing the suspensions from their banks, excluding their sick time, that this would have the least amount of disruption within the police department. Also, if the officers were forced to stay home without pay, those positions would have to be filled for staffing purposes. This would cause a considerable amount of overtime to be paid. In regards to the issue of suspensions, the suspension time to be held in reserve to serve as a probationary period: this practice was implemented back in 2000, and has been used numerous times for disciplinary purposes over the years, and has proved to be a creative deterrent.
The question has come up as to why the Police Department did not seek criminal charges against these individuals. It should be noted that the only evidence which implicated these officers were their own statements. Prior to the statements being taken, the officers were advised of their rights under Garrity. Garrity, similar to Miranda, is a Supreme Court decision protecting Police Officers against self-incrimination in a criminal matter stemming from an internal investigation. Hence, the statements cannot be used. A review of the building’s exterior camera system did not reveal officers leaving early. Also, the officer’s keyfob only indicates when the officer enters the building, and not exits. Also, a check of the officer’s in-car computer in an attempt to see what time the officer was signing off was also inconclusive. Since this was now determined not to be a criminal matter, but a personnel issue within the city, an outside agency was not notified.
I want to assure you, and the residents of this city, that procedures are now being implemented to prevent this from ever happening again. The building’s exterior camera system will be updated with picture time-date stamps, the cameras will be repositioned allowing full coverage on all the building’s entrance and exits. A new computerized payroll system for the police department could be forthcoming.
In conclusion, once the apologies are over, the first issue we need to address as a police department is (to) restore public confidence. I know many feel that a monetary loss is not enough. Shortly, the command officers involved’s names will be appearing in the local print media and online. These families will be put through public humiliation. Not to mention these officers having to explain to their parents and children how and why they deceived the city that they worked for. Officers who have had distinguished careers in the Sterling Heights Police Department, their reputations are now tarnished for years to come.
The approach that needs to be taken from the command officers to myself, is to take a deep breath and focus on important outcomes, like restoring confidence, learning the lessons this incident has taught, and putting the past behind us and moving forward.
As I stated earlier, I apologize to the residents of the city for the behavior of a few. And let’s not have one incident cast a negative image on a fine police department. Thank you for allowing me to come before you tonight and have a good evening.”