The Cloquet City Council heard the results of its latest study of the city’s police department Tuesday, Oct. 1, and received some recommendations for changes in department policy.
The study results, presented by Jonathan Ingram and William Connors of the Novak Consulting Group, were based on a survey of the force, interviews with city councilors and five community members, Ingram said.
The survey of Cloquet police found the officers are dedicated to their work and proud of their work in the community, but are looking forward to a more stable leadership situation. The survey also showed officers are concerned about the public perception of the CPD.
The department has been mired in controversy since former Chief Steve Stracek was placed on administrative in March 2017 while the council conducted an investigation into a "vote of no confidence" filed by the Teamsters Local 346, which represents CPD officers and sergeants.
Stracek was exonerated of allegations contained in the letter, but also retired as chief.
Stracek’s replacement, Jeff Palmer, served for just over two years in the role, but resigned in August after a lengthy leave of absence.
In addition, two officers have left the CPD since December following allegations of misconduct, leaving the department short staffed.
The study comes not only as the city is searching for a new police chief, but also a new city administrator. Former City Administrator Aaron Reeves left in September to take a job in Hudson, Wis.
Despite the instability, the study said the CPD continued to provide quality service. The study also recommended 22 policy changes the department could make to improve performance and engagement with the community.
Recommendations from the study were an increase in “proactive policing,” or time spent on patrol in the community, but not necessarily responding to calls.
It also recommended assigning officers to geographic sectors to ensure the entire city benefits from police presence and equalize response time. The study also said the assignments should be flexible enough to allow officers to respond to calls in other areas of the city.
There was also a call for increased training in “less lethal devices” like tasers and upgraded cultural awareness training — particularly pertaining to Native Americans.
Other recommendations for the CPD included:
Establish guidelines for regular vehicle, uniform and equipment replacement;
Assign meal times to officers to prevent gaps in coverage; and
Implement shift briefings and eliminate transportation of officers living in Cloquet to and from work.
The group also had several recommendations regarding the investigations division of the department. The CPD currently has two detectives assigned to investigations and one officer on temporary assignment. The study recommended the department increase oversight of the division and begin tracking caseload and clearance rates and establish standards for timeliness.
The study also recommended formalizing the process for referring cases to detectives after investigation by patrol officers.
Ward 4 Councilor Kerry Kolodge asked Ingram and Connors what a “reasonable period of time” to make the recommended changes.
“This one of the things I really try to caution folks about,” Ingram said. “Those are 22 new projects, basically, that are assigned to people who already have full time jobs. It’s not something you can expect to happen overnight ... It’s not unreasonable to say, 'What’s our five-year horizon to get this work done?'"