Findings from assessment of Steamboat PD’s workplace culture released
Findings of an independent investigation into the workplace culture of the Steamboat Springs Police Department were released Monday, revealing that 76% of employees surveyed said they were satisfied with their position and believed the work environment had improved over the past five years.
A survey of police department employees, conducted by ILG Strategic Services between June 9 and 18, was aimed at evaluating the work climate within the police department as it pertains to issues of discrimination and harassment. The assessment was commissioned by the city following a settlement agreement it reached in May with former Steamboat Springs Police Cmdr. Annette Dopplick, who resigned citing issues of diversity, equity and inclusion within the department.
“Our employees are our No. 1 priority, and we take all concerns and comments from our staff seriously,” said City Attorney Dan Foote in releasing the findings. “The independent survey indicates that the Steamboat Springs Police Department has made important improvements over the past five years.”
Police Chief Cory Christensen said the results of the survey were not surprising.
“I’ve always said there is not a finish line, and there’s always room for improvement,” Christensen said. “We are working on our DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), and we’ve made great strides, and we’ll continue to work in that area.”
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According to the executive summary prepared by ILG Strategic Services, the work environment at the police department was described in favorable terms. Some of the areas that received top scores among those surveyed included: leadership doing a good job of engaging with employees; command staff being available when problems arise; and staff members feeling respected by their supervisors.
The survey indicated significant change had occurred in the department since 2015 when Christensen was hired to address the culture of the agency, and those changes were generally viewed as positive. Some of those shifts included a significant increase in the number of women and people of color in the department and a focus by the chief on improving standards of conduct among officers.
Of those surveyed, 85% said they had not experienced or observed discrimination or harassment, but others reported observing or experiencing discrimination, harassment or retaliation based on gender, sexual orientation, national origin and the role held within the department. Twenty-two percent of those surveyed said they had experienced harassment or discrimination based on their gender and sexual orientation, and 7% said the discrimination was based on sexual orientation or national origin/race.
Other areas of concern voiced in the survey included Steamboat’s high cost of living, the lack of housing and compensation, as well as staff not addressing poor performance quickly enough and a perceived divide between officers and “non-sworn” employees.
“This survey shows we are working hard to value our employees, and we’ll continue to work in that direction,” said Christensen, who is retiring Sept. 2. “That’s part of our culture to grow and learn and be better tomorrow than we were yesterday.”
The executive summary also noted a “theme” in the survey and interviews that referenced the leadership style of a former police department employee, who was not identified in the report.
“This individual seemed to be a polarizing figure,” the report stated.
The police department’s 40 employees were all given the opportunity to participate in the investigation through an online culture survey and confidential voluntary interviews. In all, 27 people participated, which is far greater than the company’s usual 30% to 40% participation rate.
“It’s gratifying to see the changes implemented creating a more open, diverse and inclusive environment,” City Manager Gary Suiter said in a news release. “While we may not be perfect, like any organization, we strive to continually evolve and advance, and our efforts won’t stop with the completion of this survey.”
The city’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee will use the survey data in the development of a multi-year strategic plan, according to Suiter.
To reach Lisa Schlichtman, call 970-871-4221, email lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @lschlichtman.
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