O'Fallon police car

O’Fallon police car (Source: Facebook)

Through a formal bid process, the city of O’Fallon selected Matrix Consulting Group to conduct a budgeted, independent, 360-degree comprehensive review of its police department. Matrix conducted interviews, collected data, surveyed all department employees anonymously, then prepared a detailed 82-page report.

On Nov. 15 at the City Council workshop prior to its regular meeting, Matrix representative Richard Brady presented the study, its results and recommendations.

On Nov. 17, Mid Rivers Newsmagazine spoke with Acting Chief of Police Major John Neske about the survey. He has been acting chief since Philip Dupuis resigned on June 18. Neske has been an O’Fallon police officer for 29 years and plans to retire May 31, 2022. Including seven years as a police officer prior to O’Fallon, he will retire with a little over 36 total years in law enforcement.

“The city council had asked for a study about two years ago, due to a general perception of morale issues in the department,” Neske clarified. “The study was included in the 2021 budget, so we proceeded with it this year.”

Neske said the total study cost was $68,500.

He said he agreed with nearly everything found and recommended in the study, except perhaps the timing of adding additional civilian staff. He said he would “work with city administrator Michael Snowden and prepare an appropriate, fiscally-responsible and justifiable plan to discuss with the council.”

Asked about the greatest challenges facing the department and its chief, Neske answered, “Recruiting quality officers – the same challenge as all of police departments. Then, the challenge of managing continuous growth while maintaining high morale. We have been growing ever since I started here.”  

The department had 66 officers in 2001 and now has 120, nearly doubling in 20 years as the city’s population has grown.

Matrix had distributed the employee survey electronically by email to 154 department employees in June 2021. A total of 118 responses were received by the end of the survey period, for an overall response rate of 77%. At the time of former police chief Dupuis’ resignation, only 20 responses had been received.

Survey key results included:

• The majority of responses agreed with the positively-worded statements in the survey.

• Sworn police officers had a significantly higher rate of agreement compared to civilian staff.

• Opportunities exist to improve relationships with and perceptions of civilian staff.

• Respondents indicated a desire for additional staffing for both sworn and civilian positions.

• There was a strong desire for increased pay and better employee benefits.

• Civilian staff responses were less positive in several areas compared to sworn officer responses

• Greater than 68% of respondents indicated that the department provides good or excellent service and programs for the seven areas included in the survey.

• Respondents overwhelming agreed that the department is heading in a positive direction and recent changes have been beneficial.

The overall sense of the survey was generally positive.

Recommendations included:

• Shift two officers in operations from the night shifts to the day shifts to improve service level capacity during afternoon hours.

• Maintain current operations staffing levels in patrol to provide high levels of service, then add staffing as growth over the next decade begins to affect service levels.

• Authorize one additional dispatcher position in support services 

• Increase animal control/park ranger staffing by one position.

• Update property room software to interface with other city systems. 

• Add two records clerks to the records unit, for a total of 4.5 authorized positions. 

• Move officer case status tracking responsibilities to sworn supervisors.

• Assign sworn supervisors to district attorney case declinations and follow-up requests for

officers’ cases.

• Increase administrative support in the training unit by one additional full-time-equivalent, for a total of two authorized positions.

• Increase staffing of confinement officers by one additional position, for a total of seven authorized positions.

• Maintain the current level of nine detectives authorized for investigations. 

• Maintain the one investigative clerk authorized position.  

• Maintain current staffing of two sergeants for investigations.

The study projected a total of 175 positions will be needed in 2031 to maintain the current level of service. This is an increase of 16 positions from what is currently budgeted in 2021.