"Without data, you're just another person with an opinion..."
SURVEY OF LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT
For my CJ711 Research and Evaluations course, I conducted an in-person (when COVID-restrictions allowed) survey of various law enforcement members across Fayette County- from June 1st, 2021 to August 31st, 2021. The written survey was conducted face-to-face (or distributed by fellow officers), consisted of 36 questions, and many interviewees responded with constructive feedback. I was able to study the results, and recycle the data here for the public, once the course closed. The results of the survey are not scientific, but do provide voters with information regarding deputies’ thoughts and perceptions, on a variety of topics related to law enforcement, and their employment within the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office. As a bonus, multiple surveys were circulated to Lexington Police Department officers, and their responses will be noted (separately) when relevant.
What is the most difficult part of your job that you would change if you could?
When I asked “what is the most difficult part of your job?” I did not expect many answers. However, the deputies surveyed indicated that this question brought forward issues that need to be addressed front and center:
Several officers indicated a lack of community interaction. Interaction with the community is one of the pivotal roles of a sheriff’s office and the role of an elected sheriff. These problems will both be addressed and scrutinized in later data.
Other individuals felt that they spend far too much time within the office, and others felt that they are stuck doing the same day every day. Charts further down the page will indicate why this is a big problem.
Finally, deputies indicated various internal issues with co-workers. If you have poor leadership at the top, where you simply run a department out of a fear, then it makes perfect sense that you’re going to have basic disagreements between co-workers because you have a failure to lead your business effectively.
Each of these examples have one aspect in common: they all indicate poor management from the top.. and that is why I am running for Fayette County Sheriff.
The strong majority of officers surveyed indicated that they “somewhat” feel comfortable reporting an issue to a supervisor and that is an issue.
What if you’re a peace officer and see a fellow officer committing a crime? What if you have a safety concern (like you feel there’s too few officers on shift, or your vehicle should be retired)?
If deputies don’t feel comfortable approaching leadership, then this shows a lack of an ‘open door policy.’ Or, what if the door is "open,” are they simply going to get yelled at, talked down to, ignored or punished? Deputies should feel safe when reporting issues that affect them, their leadership, and the community they serve.
Do you feel you can safely approach leadership about issues within your department?
Do you feel that there are a safe and appropriate number of officers on shift at a given time?
Lack of adequate staffing is a problem that has been plaguing law enforcement across our country for the past few years now. The survey results indicate that a frightening majority feel that they are not satisfied with an appropriate number of officers on shift at a given time.
This is not national data you are reading, these surveys were collected from men and women who work and live in the same county that you and I do. We shop at the same Kroger, Walmart and shopping malls. An officer, working alone, may be more likely to use lethal force (or handle a situation differently) than if they were working with, at least, a backup unit.
This data alone notes that this type of leadership makes it dangerous for not only deputies, but the community as well.
This graph highlights the fact that there is a large disconnect between local deputies and the Lexington community.
While a sheriff’s office is typically more complicated than a local police department, citizens should still be aware of what deputies do day to day.
Sadly, this is why I had to add a tab on the website to explain what the duties are of the Fayette County Sheriff. This lack of connection between the two indicates that we need to work on that relationship.
Deputies thinking people ‘don’t know,’ means deputies haven’t been out in the community to actually find out...
Do you think residents in your city are aware of your duties?
How do you feel the department is perceived by the community?
11-out-of-14 deputies indicated that they think citizens have an “impartial view” of their office. This simple question shows a lot about the department, and indicates that the strong majority don’t feel connected with their community.
“Officer Exchange Days” are common within law enforcement, but not so common within the general public’s typical day-to-day business world. The failure to exchange an officer, at least once a year, with a different department is a huge missed opportunity. This is an excellent way to see what other departments are doing around the state or even the country.
You could swap a deputy for a week with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, or maybe you might send one to a large metro area.. or even a small town.
Has your department ever considered an "Officer Exchange Day" with another department?
Worse case scenario? If you don’t learn anything, the reciprocating department might learn something from your leadership, and then you have already enhanced a relationship between departments a key element of effective law enforcement leadership.
If a suspect has been trafficking between Louisville and Lexington, the relationship between the departments is already established and that might help with a quicker investigation and prosecution.
Do you feel that your agency utilizes community policing properly?
In a modern world, community policing is everything. Officers should be getting out and playing basketball with kids, they should be on foot patrols speaking to residents and traveling through neighborhoods, they should be handing out Jr. Deputy Badges and stickers to children.
When I have contacted the FCSO for a badge to add to my collection, the response was “oh, no sir. We don’t do that. We don’t give out badges in our department, our leaders spent that money elsewhere..” Community service is about the community. It means picking up litter and even sometimes volunteering your time off.
Due to the fact our town merged into the LFUCG years ago, the sheriff’s office is blessed to be in a rural/urban area and community policing should be simple.
This is tougher for a sheriff’s office out in the county, but to find that not 100% of deputies felt great about their department’s involvement with community policing is rather concerning to me.
Because 8-out-of-12 surveyed indicated that the FCSO’s relationship with surrounding agencies needs work, this is another big issue.
Relationships are significant from everything from sharing information to working cases. This rate should be at 90% and above, yet the majority feel that the agency needs to work on this..
How well does your agency work with surrounding law enforcement?
Do you have any suggestions for the current sheriff, or suggestions for a new sheriff?
"More street time (too much time in the office)"
"More training & hand-to-hand should be offered"
"Deputies should train together"
"More deputies in the department so that they can work more directly with LPD"
Kathy Witt has been in office since 1996, and it’s clear that the chart indicates that officers feel it is time for her to move on...
How long should a Sheriff hold their office?
Thanks to social media, riots can happen at a moment’s notice.
Our law enforcement departments should feel comfortable handling those. There are more agencies, in Lexington, than most of the general public is actually aware of.
Because the Lexington Police Department handles general disturbance duties, sheriff deputies likely don’t feel confident in responding ...at least, that’s what their responses indicated.
This is where the relationships need to be built and strengthened so that deputies can feel comfortable (and receive the proper training) if they’re called to work a riot if Lexington PD were to call in backup.
Do you feel your department is fully prepared to handle a riot or large disturbance on short notice?
Have you ever considered leaving the department for a different agency, or would you stay at your current department until retirement?
I asked each respondent: “have you ever considered leaving the department for a different agency, or would you feel comfortable staying in the current department until you retire?”
To the general public it may look like I’m asking about their career; however, I am actually asking about their department. This is exactly why losing officers’ combined experience can be detrimental to the community and the agency. The experience needs to be bestowed upon the new recruits out of the academy.
We don’t need someone with 2.5 years of experience showing a rookie how to police. We need seasoned veterans that have seen how our beloved Fayette County community works. Young officers teaching new recruits can be a recipe for disaster, and can result in a lack of general knowledge out in the field.
79% of responses indicated that officers would prefer to “retire earlier”” versus staying at the current department to try to promote in rank. That, in itself, is a staggering statistic that reveals how poorly leadership rewards promotion within the department.
If you were able to retire in 20 years, would you, or would you stay on for possible promotion?
Should the department be more lenient
with its facial hair and/or tattoo policies?
Facial hair policy
67% of deputies believe that the tattoo policy is too strict, while 93% believe that the department should lessen its' policy requirements regarding facial hair.. Both of these issues are directly addressed further in my "Policy Changes" section.
Is your agency effective at modern policing, or is it more dated in its' procedures, management, and overall approach?
Multiple law enforcement personnel that I surveyed have stated that their department needs improvement. They articulated that their agency is dated in its procedures and obviously that is a big issue.
This seems to be a greater issue within the Fayette County Sheriff's Office when compared to the Lexington Police Department.
For a comparison, please review this stacked chart displaying the responses from both the Fayette County Sheriff's Office deputies and the Lexington Police Department officers.
The Fayette County Sheriff deputies' responses are indicated in red, and the Lexington Police officers' responses are indicated in blue.
Prior survey questions have highlighted the fact that deputies feel as though more training is very important. Defensive tactics and hand-to-hand training were specifically mentioned. This is significant because the current climate of law enforcement stresses handling a fight with verbal, physical, or less lethal tactics.
Knowing how to handle a suspect with physical training is the way of the future, and it’s clear the deputies do not feel that their leadership has provided them with proper training.
The large majority of officers have stated that they don’t feel confident on their defensive tactics.. and this is a big problem.
Do you feel enough emphasis is placed on hand-to-hand defensive tactics within your department?
The question relates to the lack of training provided by leadership, but also indicates why staying in shape is so important in this line of profession. The more fit and experienced you are with defensive tactics, the better you’ll be to handle a fight without using excessive force.
Have you ever considered leaving law enforcement?
78% of responses indicated they would like to “leave law enforcement, retire early, or leave the agency for a different agency.” Moral is clearly at a low, and it's going to take New Thinking and a New Sheriff to turn this department around.
I personally want to thank the members of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office for voicing their beliefs in this survey. It was a huge success and now provides Fayette County residents with valuable insight into the matters that affect our community, the sheriff’s department and our local events.
This information is being used to contemplate the next steps and take action, together, in solidarity to voice deputies’ concerns to the media, politicians, advocacy groups, policymakers and the general public. Another thank you goes to the Lexington Police Department officers who were also willing to fill out the survey for my research.