Fontana Police Department

Members of the Fontana Police Department Explorers Post 531 wanted to do something special and safe for the community during the coronavirus pandemic, and so they created Valentine's Day cards and passed them out to senior citizens recently.  The Explorers program was praised by an independent analysis of the Police Department last year.  (Contributed photo by Fontana Police Department)

An independent report has praised the Fontana Police Department's accomplishments while also pointing out some areas which need improvement, especially in terms of hiring more minorities.

The assessment, which had been requested by Fontana Police Chief Billy Green, was conducted last year by Hillard Heintze LLC, a risk management company.

The report noted that although 69.3 percent of the City of Fontana's population is Latino or Hispanic, only 30.21 percent of the Fontana P.D.'s sworn employees are Latino or Hispanic.

"Asian and Black residents are also underrepresented in the department compared to the general population of Fontana," the report said.

In addition, of the 192 sworn officers, almost 93 percent are men, the report said.

Robert L. Davis, practice lead and senior vice president of law enforcement consulting for Hillard Heintze, said the report specifically focused on and identified areas where the Fontana P.D. could make operational changes to improve its services, including diversity within the department.

"While they recognized and were proud of their strengths, they expressed a willingness to open up the department to scrutiny so they could identify ways they could improve the department’s operations and its service to the community," Davis said in the report.

In response to the report, Green said that he is excited to discover ideas which could be beneficial. "I am confident this will forward our mission of 'doing what we are doing better than it has ever been done before'," he said.

----- KEY FINDINGS in the report include:

• The morale of the department's personnel is high, which is attributed, in part, to respect and transparency between leadership and employees.

"During our interview process, we heard very few complaints about management or leadership," the report said. "Persons who were interviewed said the department has an atmosphere of open and honest communication."

• The P.D. is providing critical public safety services and connecting with community members during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Even during the COVID-19 quarantine, the FPD found ways to reach out to community members by creating a Police Chief’s Roundtable Committee and conducting community-oriented events, such as the open house and reading books for schoolchildren online," the report said.

• The Internal Affairs cases that were reviewed were thorough and accurate, according to the materials provided within the file; however, the report identified several opportunities for improvement.

• The department's pre-academy program provides recruits a strong background in the field that helps contribute to their success in the subsequent state-certified police academy.

"Recently hired police officers cited the pre-academy program as extremely helpful as they continued through the recruitment and academy process. Many said it made them better prepared than academy students who were affiliated with other departments," the report said.

• Although recent hiring data indicates the department is hiring more candidates of color by percentage, the report observed several steps in the hiring process where applicants of color were disproportionately affected.

"The racial and ethnic breakdown of police officer trainee applicants roughly matches the demographics for the City of Fontana, although a large number of these candidates, especially people of color, did not appear for the exam. Additionally, Hispanic applicants tend to fail the physical agility test (PAT) or written exam at a higher rate than others. The department should collect data to determine why this may be the case and develop strategies to remedy it," the report said.

"The screening process within the City’s Human Resources Department may, on occasion, be inhibiting the department’s ability to select qualified applicants of color who would meet the overall needs of the department. Specifically, some applicants appear to have been deselected from moving forward in the hiring process based on technical reasons, like minor omissions on the application form, even though their resumes indicated they are well qualified for the position."

The report said that 65 percent of the sworn employees are white, while only 13.8 percent of the city's residents are white. The sworn staff has 58 Hispanics, three Blacks, one Asian, and five that are classified as "other."

But the report noted that recent efforts to increase the number of sworn officers of color have been somewhat successful. "In recent years, the FPD increased the number of officers of color as a percentage of the sworn personnel," the report said, and the department has "expressed its desire to continue to improve its efforts to recruit and hire people of color."

The department's efforts include recruiting for the cadet program, which was established to attract young, well-qualified college students interested in a part-time training program to become officers. The current cadet program includes six Hispanic men, one white man, one Hispanic woman and one Black man, the report said.

• The department should make a concerted effort to attract and hire female candidates, the report said.

Women comprise only 16.1 percent of the police officer trainee applicants and only seven percent of the P.D.'s current sworn staff.

• The P.D. has several recruitment strategies, such as attending community events, but it could expand its efforts to more effectively reach candidates of color and women.

"The biggest influence on recruiting members to the department appears to be word-of-mouth advertising and personal invitations from current members. While it is important for officers to be personal ambassadors for the department, simply relying on word of mouth can result in a less diverse pool of applicants as current personnel may reach out only to their own social networks," the report said. "Moreover, the FPD should adopt a written comprehensive recruitment and selection strategy to recruit and select employees from a qualified and diverse pool of candidates."

The report added:

"The President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing identified the need for law enforcement personnel who reflect the communities they serve. It noted that increased diversity is important to build trust with the community and can make a department “more open to reform, more willing to initiate cultural and systemic changes, and more responsive to residents they serve.'"

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