Assuming the role of commander in mid-summer, DiPrima began making changes, most notably instituting a “productivity ranking” system. The system is a points-based analysis of an officer’s production on a monthly basis, with rankings released after the final day of a given month.
“I established this system for several reasons,” said DiPrima. “First, I find it important for each officer to be able see the work he or she has been doing in comparison to his or her co-workers. It is important for each officer to realize that, not only are they being critiqued by the public, but also measured internally as well as in regards to producing quality cases toward fighting crime and reducing the crime rate in the community.
“Second, motivation to be more productive towards fighting crime and addressing traffic violations is created when those within the agency can see the positive effects it has on the crime rate and number of traffic accidents,” said DiPrima
According to documents obtained through an Open Records request, an officer earns points from one to 10 for incidents ranging from citations to crime-in-progress arrests, respectively. In November, the number of points available through traffic citations was capped at 15.
While the concept isn’t a new one, DiPrima said the procedure will allow officers to see their efforts “creating a safer community for the citizens,” and will provide him a method of measuring performance.
Similar to a ‘Roman warship’
Manning a department of roughly 30 officers is not an easy task. Police Chief Tommy Culpepper likened it to the job of ancient sea captains.
“It’s like being on a Roman warship — you’ve got 300 oarsmen, they’re all a little bit different but they’re going in the same direction. That’s kinda what Jason’s doing,” he said.
Culpepper doesn’t see DiPrima’s methods as “unusual,” adding that “some of the things he’s doing are the same things I was doing when I was uniform division commander.”
“Although data has always been available through various reporting systems in the agency, most officers have never collected the data for other officers to determine who is meeting the agency’s expectations on what shifts during what times, and cannot correlate the effects it may have had to the crimes being committed,” DiPrima said. “I do not necessarily believe that officers have lacked motivation in the past, but rather have lacked the ability to see what they are producing in regards to numerically assigned data.”
And that data is one of the best ways to evaluate the department’s performance.
“The only way to measure a police officer’s performance isn’t by how many miles they drive, that’s irrelevant. How many doughnuts you eat has no bearing on the job. It’s how much work you do, the impact that you have for the community,” Culpepper said.
Numbers don’t lie
When asked, Culpepper said “there’s been some” improvement since DiPrima’s move from Criminal Investigations to Uniform Patrol, but the results can be a roller-coaster ride.
“It’s like cattle kinda. … It’s like herding cows - you get ‘em going in this way and some wander off and you just gotta try to bring ‘em back in. So it’s kinda up and down,” he said, adding management tries to determine what is affecting officer performance.
“We try to identify what’s causing the lack of performance, from a management standpoint,” he said. “Is it a management failure? Because it could be. Is it an individual failure? Could be. Is it training? Is it discipline? Has this person got so many problems at home and outside the agency that they’ve decided to let it affect how they do their job? We try to identify what causes the lack of performance as well what motivates people to perform well.”
Statistical reports from June, August and October offer only a glimpse at what changes may be taking place at 178 W. Main St.
According to the reports, officers made four driving-under-the-influence arrests in June, 15 in August and 11 in October.
A monthly report analysis for each month breaks down the number of reports filed by incident type with noticeable increases coming in few categories. In June, the city reported seven burglary calls, but 18 in August and 23 in October.
Likewise, larceny reports jumped from 61 in June to 65 and 78 in August and October, respectively. An increase was also noted in the traffic/city category: 38 reports in June, 54 in August and 68 in October. Also, agency assists also went up.
DiPrima downplays any role his system may have had in those increases.
“Initially there was no increase in the number of citations issued, but there has been an increase in the number of arrests made. One thing to remember is that arrests are being made in some instances as a result of investigations that have been conducted over a period of time, so, in some cases, that could be months,” he said. “However, the number of traffic citations issued was consistent with the previous four months. However, the number of traffic citations rose approximately 20 percent during the month of October, but it is believed that number is a response to the establishment of the Special Operations Unit that is dedicated to traffic offenses.”
Culpepper said the department promotes crime prevention as much as possible. Shift supervisors also are asked to create plans for addressing crime in certain areas.
“When you see a trend, you need to address it,” the chief said. “Larceny is high and has been in this city for several years … Motor vehicle theft seems to be up. What the explanation for that is, I don’t know. Is that economy driven? Is that, ‘Hey, come steal my car cause I can’t pay for it and insurance will?’ … Those are the two things that have jumped out at me. But I also see numbers that indicates our officers are out there doing self-initiated work. Everything we’re doing, like any other business in this town, we want the most for our money.”
What about productivity?
Since being implemented in September, the productivity rankings at CPD paint an interesting picture.
For example, in September the highest-ranking officer – who serves on what Culpepper called special operations – had 109 points on a “productivity totals” report. In October, the same officer had 151 points.
By shift, the increase was even more drastic – three of four shifts doubled their point total. The fourth, the most productive, missed the mark by only five points.
DiPrima said several factors, including time of the year and economic factors, can play a part in an officer’s ranking.
In November, the commander tweaked the system he dubbed a “work in progress.” Along with capping points earned for traffic citations, he decided to incorporate the number of Field Interview Reports.
“My reasoning is that I believe it is important to question person(s) who may be acting suspiciously but are later determined to not be breaking the law. Criminal Investigations often relies on this information to develop suspects for specific criminal offenses that may be occurring in the areas where these interviews are being conducted,” said the 2009 graduate of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy. “It also requires the officer to be proactive and attempt to intercept suspect(s) before the crimes occur as opposed to responding afterwards. Our ultimate goal is to reduce crime by preventing it and I believe that the ability to confront suspicious behavior in advance, via the Field Interrogation Report, is a method of accomplishing this goal.”
In November, the officer at the top of the list – the same as September and October – earned only 85 points. A breakdown by shift was not available.
DiPrima said attributing any increase in tickets or arrests to the points system was not feasible.
“Although, due to all of the other factors which lead to citations and arrests, it is not possible to determine what, if any, effect the productivity ranking system has had on the increase or decrease in citations or arrests,” he said.
‘A 360-degree perspective’
The Daily Tribune News received in early November an anonymous letter making several allegations against the Cartersville Police Department, including the accusation that DiPrima was holding a “ticket writing contest,” offering a “prize” for “childish games.”
Upon the filing of an Open Records request, The Daily Tribune News received a copy of an e-mail referenced in the letter. In that e-mail to shift commanders, DiPrima said, “I favor the concept of competition among both officers and shifts, and will attempt to implement some form of rewards for those who put forth the most effort and produce quality work.”
In a later interview, DiPrima said there is no reward.
“I assume you are referring to the mention of reward in an e-mail on Aug. 11, 2010, to the shift commanders when I was initially discussing coming up with some way to measure productivity regarding shifts and officers. I never implemented a reward system and no rewards were ever provided,” he said. “I plan to use the data in my evaluation of the recognition of outstanding performance towards the ‘Officer of the Quarter,’ which is a past-established commendation. The production of each officer would only work as a ‘reward’ towards recognition, such as ‘Officer of the Year,’ ‘Officer of the Quarter,’ performance evaluations, etc.”
Culpepper said DiPrima’s management and methods could have ruffled a few feathers.
“Jason is simply just bringing things to light, bringing performance to light and nobody likes that. Nobody likes to be told you’re wrong,” he said. “It’s our job as leaders in the agency to let people know that you’re substandard here, you’re OK here and you’re doing very well here. That’s essentially what he’s doing. It takes some adjusting.”
Asserting that any recognition looks beyond productivity numbers, Culpepper and DiPrima said officers are judged on attitude and involvement as well as performance.
Culpepper said those who earn the award will be those with a “360-degree perspective” of their job.
“If you’re a dead beat employee, you’re never gonna be officer of the year, officer of the quarter. I don’t care where you work, I don’t care what time of day you work. I don’t care what your assignment is. You’re not going to be a good employee,” according to Culpepper. “I don’t care if you work in here, if you’re making dog food, if you’re making bricks….it makes no difference. You’re never going to be employee of the year.”