Self examination is a complicated thing for any enterprise, much less a police department. But as the village of Schaumburg has found and a new report confirms, it is a necessary thing. And at that, a necessary thing that must necessarily be conducted in a certain way.
The Schaumburg P.D. absorbed this lesson painfully -- at the price of, among other costs, a $148,000 study following the arrest of three of its narcotics officers on charges they were stealing and dealing drugs themselves. Other suburban police departments, indeed other governmental agencies of any type as well as almost any business, would do well to consider what was learned.
The top-to-bottom review of the Schaumburg police conducted by Hillard Heintze consultants of Chicago found plenty of structural and systemic weaknesses that no doubt played a role in the lapse that could permit the three suspected rogue cops to operate as they are alleged to have done. In hindsight, the village and the department itself could not be faulted for wishing they'd spent the money for such an analysis before the activities occurred that led to the officers' arrests. But given the significant amount of self-analysis and outside review already conducted by a nationally accredited police department like Schaumburg's, what agency, especially one with no visible signs of a problem, is going to lay out 150 grand every few years to have impartial outsiders evaluate its potential for a major crisis?
That level of outside scrutiny is simply not feasible. But its emergence after the fact in Schaumburg can be instructive for any agency, especially insofar as its primary conclusions are concerned. For, the most profound weaknesses Hillard Heintze identified at the Schaumburg Police Department involved shortcomings familiar to any organization -- poor communication, inconsistent and ineffective discipline, weak management structures, incomplete integration of data and technology tools.
"Many of the (Schaumburg) department's current issues ... stem directly or indirectly from a deficiency in management and reporting relationships," the study says bluntly.
In a meeting with the Daily Herald editorial board, Schaumburg officials Ken Fritz, village manager, and Ken Bouche, interim police chief and a co-author of the Hillard Heintze report, were similarly blunt. In the future, Bouche said, the department cannot just "look for examples of how we meet the standard" but must initiate a process of management and supervision "to make sure we are meeting the standard." The distinction is more than merely semantic. It comes down to a manner of self-evaluation that is more critical, more honest and more comprehensive.
Schaumburg officials, who deserve credit for the transparency and determination with which they've pursued answer in the wake of the police officers' arrests, likely wish they'd applied such a process previously. That they've done it now at least offers other towns and departments a chance to do it before a crisis strikes.