Douglas Officials Criticize City Of Saugatuck's Police Service's Questionnaire For Residents
At Monday’s meeting, Douglas city officials once again ridiculed their Saugatuck counterparts’ campaign in evaluating and studying that city’s future police service, describing Saugatuck’s latest effort—a mail-out questionnaire to all residents and business owners— as being “vague,” “weak” and “subjective.”
“To what extent do SDPD (Saugatuck-Douglas Police Department) officers treat people fairly?” Douglas City Council Member Kathryn Mooradian read aloud, a sample from Saugatuck city’s police survey recently mailed out to all city residents and business owners.
“That is supposed to be objective?” asked Mooradian. “Come on, how do people even answer that?”
Douglas Mayor Pro-Tem Greg Harvath agreed.
“It was too vague,” chimed in Harvath.
Referring to certain sections of the survey, he noted, “There is a need for actual-based statistics in (police service) performance because we know they exist. The general public has no basis to determine that; evaluations are personal and subjective.”
The survey is based on the independent report that cost Saugatuck $15,000 and conducted by Alexander Weiss, Ph.D, and his namesake consulting firm of Evanston, Ill.
That report too was met with harsh criticism by Douglas officials, citing it as a waste of money because the report’s author was, they said, grossly negligent in his data-gathering, leaving out crucial and critical information that ought to have been included.
Douglas representatives also said the report devalued the good work by SDPD officers.
The Saugatuck questionnaire was recently drafted and mailed to constituents.
Saugatuck city officials are asking folks to fill out and return the questionnaire by September 18, 2017. Saugatuck City Council last week said the survey’s focus was not on numbers such as calls for service, but on five key components: community involvement, safety, procedural justice, performance and contact and satisfaction.
The police department was formed in 1998, with a current budget at $1.28 million, a hefty figure, which among other reasons—including an assessment of whether or not police service could be improved—prompted Saugatuck officials to look at alternatives.
Saugatuck contributes $550,000 towards the total budget, including extra money for more officers at Oval Beach and downtown during the busy summer season.
Weiss and his team met with 12 Saugatuck community members which reported that the SDPD “is not committed to working with community residents.”
The report presented the City of Saugatuck with a number of options moving forward relative to future police service, including the use of private security officers, negotiating a new agreement with Douglas, contracting services with Allegan County Sheriff’s Department, forming it’s own police department, or forming a regional police department.
Responding to Douglas officials’ criticisms, Saugatuck City Manager Harrier said:
“The City of Saugatuck Policing Services Citizen Survey was prepared by using questions developed by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services with the support of ICF International and law enforcement experts.
“The overall purpose of the survey is to gather opinions and experiences related to policing directly from a large number of Saugatuck city community members.
“The Saugatuck City Council will use the citizen survey data in conjunction with data in the Weiss Consulting Police Services Study and data supplied directly from the Saugatuck-Douglas Police Department via their annual report as they evaluate all options for providing police services to the residents of the City of Saugatuck.”
Harrier noted it was the right thing to involve the public in important municipal decisions.
“The Saugatuck City Council believes the public policy process is extremely important and they understand the complexity involved. The manner in which public policy is formed, implemented and evaluated in the city is of the upmost importance to the council. “This is precisely why the council is gathering as much data as possible prior to implementing any course of action.”