HOWLAND Report urges change for police



The chief said the study, which criticized evidence handling and leadership, is what he expected.
By STEPHEN SIFFand PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
HOWLAND -- A $9,000 study raises several criticisms of the Howland Police Department, including some officers' feelings "that they operate in a leadership vacuum."
Township trustees commissioned the study earlier this year. Some of its findings concern Chief Steve Lamantia, who announced his retirement after the authors, consultants from the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, finished their examination.
Lamantia says the report did not influence his decision to leave the department after 10 years.
"My wife and I decided a long time ago that I was going to retire," the chief said.
Leadership criticism
The consultants said Lamantia did not do a good job forecasting budget needs or planning for the future. The department's chain of command was confusing, and no one seemed to know what the deputy chief was supposed to do, the study says.
"The general observation of the consultants is that the Howland Police Department is an administratively stagnant department failing to make the necessary transition to a department of the new millennium," the study said.
"As the township continues to experience economic growth and development, the agency must initiate organizational change to keep pace with its changing environment."
Lamantia said he provided the best leadership he could and that he met with the consultants only for 20 minutes.
The study "is really what I expected," Lamantia said. "I'm not perfect, and the department is not perfect."
He said the study would be helpful in improving the department.
Making changes
Township officials have already made some changes based on the study.
The system for keeping track of evidence has been revamped.
The consultants had raised several concerns about how the department stored weapons and other items taken as evidence, said Darlene St. George, township administrator.
Consultants criticized the department for not processing evidence quickly enough and storing it in a way that too many people could have access to it.
The report included pictures of evidence envelopes that sat on desks and were stacked on top of filing cabinets.
The township has already bought new locks and lockers, and a complete inventory has established that no evidence is missing, St. George said.
Further recommendations
The consultant also suggested that the police department create a plan for replacing car radios and farm out responsibility of maintaining the cars to a private company.
It also needs a more detailed policy on when car chases are appropriate, the study says.
The department should also increase the number of officers to 36, or 2 per 1,000 residents, the report said.
There are now 18 full-time officers and about eight part-timers, St. George said.
siff@vindy.comsinkovich@vindy.com

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