Covina Police Union Not Satisfied With Chief's Concessions

Times Staff Writer

While a recent report by Police Chief John Lentz addressed some of their concerns, members of the police union say promised changes aren't enough to improve departmental morale.

In a 28-page report released last week, Lentz agreed to make some of the changes the Police Assn. of Covina had requested in the department's promotion, training and assignment policies.

But the chief hasn't allayed the union's concerns on standardizing assignment procedures and increasing staffing, said Officer Vic Lupu, president of the association.

The 60-member union, which complained that staff morale has plummeted during the five years Lentz has been chief, asked the City Council in early July to intervene. Lentz and City Manager John Thomson met with the council in closed session Aug. 7 to present the report responding to union concerns.

Will Ask for Input

In his point-by-point response, Lentz agreed to review the department's training needs and to standardize procedures for making special assignments. He also said that he would ask for input from sergeants when evaluating officers for promotions.

"On the face of it, it looks like there's an attempt to work on some problem areas," Lupu said. But he said the chief's promise to standardize procedures for making assignments isn't enough.

"Our worry is he makes the qualifications fit the person he wants," Lupu said. He said the union wants all special assignment listings to be posted.

Lentz declined to follow other union recommendations, such as designating the number and types of beats assigned for each of the day's three watches.

Describing staff scheduling as a "management prerogative" under an agreement with the union, Lentz retained overlapping shifts, which the union said may reduce safety for patrol officers.

More than half of the chief's report focused on conditions the union said contributed to low morale. Responding to criticism that "participative management is almost non-existent," Lentz said he has reinstituted monthly staff meetings that include participation by sergeants, who are union members.

Lentz said he is also reviewing the officers' requests to eliminate daily logs in which they must list all their activities. He said new computer software the department may buy would simplify the daily log, as well as crime reporting forms that officers must submit.

Mayor Encouraged

Mayor Bob Low said he is encouraged by the chief's efforts to address the union's concerns. "I think Chief Lentz and John Thomson made an honest effort to respond to the questions raised," he said. "I think to the extent that it will break down barriers, we'll all be winners."

Richard Levine, attorney for the police union, declined to comment because he said he had not seen a copy of the report.

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