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Department, union encourage Pittsburgh police officers to be honest in survey

| Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, 12:15 a.m.

Pittsburgh police officers should be “brutally honest” in an online job satisfaction survey that is part of a national study, a union leader said on Wednesday.

“Maybe going forward, the next administration will be able to more accurately correct the problems with the department,” said Sgt. Mike LaPorte, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1.

Acting police Chief Regina McDonald said she wanted the department to participate in the National Police Research Platform study, despite a federal investigation that led to the indictment of former police Chief Nate Harper and has required police officials to testify before a grand jury.

“We expected there to be some negativity,” McDonald said. “But it's important we hear from the officers. We're not afraid of what the findings will be. Whatever the results are will be a benefit to the next administration.”

The online survey is voluntary and anonymous, and asks officers and civilian employees questions about burnout, job satisfaction, stress, accountability, work-life balance, leadership and other issues. The results will go to researchers through the Center for Research in Law and Justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

“It really gives the officers a forum to anonymously share their concerns,” McDonald said. “And then we can see what we're doing right and what we need to improve on.”

Professor Dennis Rosenbaum, director of the center in Chicago, said Pittsburgh is among 100 departments nationwide involved in the study.

“We know about crime statistics and clearance rates, but we don't know how organizations function and what makes for organizational excellence,” Rosenbaum said.

McDonald said officers began taking the survey on Tuesday, and it will be available until mid-November. She expects to have the results early next year.

Another part of the study involves surveying people who encounter officers during traffic incidents and criminal investigations, McDonald said.

“We'll identify people who had an interaction with police, and we will forward the survey to them,” she said. “It will give us a good read on how the community feels about the police response and how the interaction went.”

LaPorte said he urged officers to participate in the study through a union newsletter.

“I told them to be brutally honest,” he said.

Margaret Harding is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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