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'Deep divisions' exist in H.B. Police Department, consultant's report says; 16 recommendations made for improvement

'Deep divisions' exist in H.B. Police Department, consultant's report says; 16 recommendations made for improvement
Huntington Beach Police Chief Robert Handy speaks at a news conference in 2017. On Friday, the city released a 65-page consultant's report outlining the Police Department's strengths and limitations amid mounting tension between Handy and the city's police unions. (File Photo)

Team building among police staff, leadership development, infrastructure improvements and additional staffing are among 16 recommendations for improvement made by an independent consulting firm tasked with studying operations at the Huntington Beach Police Department.

City officials in November hired Costa Mesa-based Management Partners to gather employee perspectives on the department's strengths and limitations amid mounting tension between Chief Robert Handy and the city's police unions.

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The city released the firm's findings in a report Friday afternoon.

The 65-page report notes "deep divisions" in the Police Department, with a lack of trust and negative employee relations.

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"Effective problem solving will … require openness to change and a willingness to move past entrenched beliefs about each other," the report states.

As part of its $52,900 contract with the city, Management Partners conducted interviews with department staff, met with union leaders, circulated a confidential online employee survey and held focus groups, according to the group.

The report concludes that city leaders, police management and employees and the Huntington Beach Police Officers Assn., which represents the department's rank-and-file, will need to work together to move the agency forward.

The strain between the union and Handy culminated last year in a no-confidence vote among the rank-and-file and a request for the chief's ouster. That later was echoed by the Huntington Beach Police Management Assn., which represents captains and lieutenants.

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City officials said Friday that Handy will take the lead in addressing the issues in the report and will work with his staff to implement the recommendations.

"I am 100% committed to improving my working relationships with HBPOA leadership and the management team," Handy said in a statement. "I also want to ensure that every employee understands and embraces our vision for the future and has a voice in our plan to get there."

However, the rank-and-file officers' union renewed its call for Handy's removal on Monday, the day the City Council heard that violent crime in Huntington Beach shot up 28% in 2017 compared with the year before. The presentation also noted that overall crime was down 2.6%.

Yasha Nikitin, vice president of the Huntington Beach Police Officers Assn., said Friday that the Management Partners report further shows why Handy needs to be replaced.

"It's sad that virtually the entire Police Department, including his own management staff, opposes Chief Handy's failed management practices and policies," Nikitin said. "Violent crime is skyrocketing. Officers are being shot and attacked. It's time that city leaders face the truth and replace Rob Handy."

Staff writer Bradley Zint contributed to this report.

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

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