New Bedford Police Union Survey Shows Strong Dissatisfaction with Chief
NEW BEDFORD — A publicly released survey of members of the New Bedford Police Union shows overwhelming disapproval of Chief Joseph Cordeiro's administration.
In 2018, the City of New Bedford hired Public Safety Strategies Group, LLC, to perform an assessment of the City's police department from top to bottom. The study, performed at a cost of about $80,000 and released in November, recommended across-the-board improvements to the department's fleet of police cruisers, stations, and training of its officers.
The study also stated that negative culture and low morale were "the most concerning areas of the NBPD, and both appear to be long-standing." The report suggested that such issues could be somewhat remedied by improved communication from Chief Cordeiro.
New Bedford Police Union President Hank Turgeon took issue with the report's findings, saying morale has not been a long-standing issue, but it is at its lowest point under Chief Cordeiro.
"We love this department. We love this city," said Turgeon. "I can tell you from my own experience [morale] hasn't always been like this and this is the worst I've ever seen it - under this leadership."
The New Bedford Police Union on Monday publicly released the results of a recent survey of union members, asking them if they agreed with the report's assessment of morale in the police department.
1. Are you happy with the direction that the Chief and Deputy are taking this department? Yes (15) or No (206)2. Are you happy with the working conditions of this department?Yes (13) or No (216)3. Do you feel that this department’s morale is lower under this administration than it has been under past administrations?Yes (201) or No (21)4. If you had an opportunity to leave this police department and be employed by another police department would you go?Yes (178) or No (48)
Turgeon said only six union members opted to not respond to the survey.
Chief Joseph Cordeiro was aware of the survey released by the union on Monday evening and said the "information is not a revelation" and was reiterated in the 2018 study by Public Safety Strategies Group.
"I care deeply for every member of our department, but I care deeply about the citizens of our City as well. As the Chief, you have to make difficult decisions that are not always popular, and doing the right thing is not always well accepted. We are also in the midst of negotiations which, I am sure, plays a role," said Cordeiro in a written statement. "Nevertheless, I am very proud of the men and women of our police department, and have been their biggest supporter. My door has and will always be open to have positive and meaningful dialogue with them in person."
The union survey results released publicly on Monday were first released to union members in an email from Turgeon on February 14. The results were supplemented by an assertion by Turgeon, who felt that the 2018 assessment of the police department was "an effort to paint the Chief in a positive light, which is typical of the Mayor's stance with public information released to the media."
The hard work of the men and women of the New Bedford Police Union are not being reported because of the job we do.Our main priority is to keep our City safe, that involves responding to and investigating crimes. This Mayor wants to hide those crimes from the public’s eye and only paint the City as a picturesque place to visit with no crime at all. We can appreciate his efforts for tourism purposes, but when you hide the crime you lure our citizens and tourist into a false sense of security and they let their guard down, they leave doors unlocked, they don’t pay attention to their surroundings, they make themselves potential victims which in turn makes our job all that much harder and the criminals illegal activity all that much easier.
The results of the survey were submitted to Chief Cordeiro and Mayor Jon Mitchell in February. Turgeon says he has not yet received any response to the survey from Cordeiro. Mayor Mitchell reportedly told Turgeon that he "did not believe in the authenticity of the survey," Turgeon wrote in an email to WBSM News.
Mayor Mitchell responded after the union survey was made public Monday afternoon.
"It’s disappointing that in the midst of contract negotiations, the union would promote its interests by producing the results of a purportedly neutral survey," Mitchell said in a written statement. " I believe that everyone would be better off by trying to talk through their differences directly with one another, and I know the chief has been willing to do just that.”
Turgeon said he was a supporter of Cordeiro's when he was named Chief in 2016. But that support turned to grave concern within several months. "He sells himself to the public in one way and then he treats the members of this department in a total different way," said Turgeon.
"He has tried to tear the union in half. He has tried to put the ranking officers against the patrol officers. He's trying to beat us into submission."
Turgeon cited the 2018 report, which recommended that ranking officers not be covered under the police union. The study stated that superior officers should not be represented by the same union as the officers they have authority over.
Turgeon says he's been approached by several police captains within the department who have told him that Chief Cordeiro is fond of the "carrot and stick" metaphor and has urged ranking officers to "forget the carrot and use the stick more."
"I don't know how to interpret that other than to beat us into submission," said Turgeon, who believes Chief Cordeiro is trying to place a wedge between ranking and patrol officers.
Over 30 New Bedford police officers have requested a lateral transfer to the Taunton Police Department since Cordeiro was named Chief, according to Turgeon. Numerous other officers opted to take civil service exams in order to become eligible for positions in other municipal departments instead of requesting lateral transfers.
Several of the Chief's initiatives, like Coffee with a Cop and High-Five Fridays, detract from real police work, says Turgeon, who feels that the spirit of such programs has been and can be exemplified through everyday police work.
"They're telling you where you have to go and park a cruiser and get out and talk with people, not letting a beat cop, like in the old days, get out and talk where they feel that it's necessary."
Turgeon says instead of trying to mitigate concerns of union members, Chief Cordeiro encourages them to instead file grievances.
"That's not how it's supposed to work," says Turgeon. "Both sides are supposed to work together so that we don't have to go to the grievance process."
Over 20 grievances were filed by union members during Cordeiro's first year as chief, according to Turgeon.
Turgeon hopes that Chief Cordeiro can cooperate with union members more directly to address their needs and concerns.