Carbondale Police 'quota' issue boils over

Submitted by Carbondale Times on

Geoffrey Ritter
Weekend Times

CARBONDALE — An internal feud at the Carbondale Police Department over a proposed “quota” boiled over last week with harsh words between the city’s mayor and the officers’ union representative, who says he will take the fight before the Illinois Labor Relations Board.

James Daniels, who represents Carbondale Police officers on behalf of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, told members of the City Council July 16 that a proposed set of work standards from the Carbondale Police administration would see officers required to meet what he called a monthly quota on everything from routine traffic stops to field interview reports.

Multiple sources declined to provide the Times a copy of the proposed work standards. At the council meeting, Daniels said patrol officers would be required to give two tickets for every one warning. 

He also said officers who “wish to exceed expectations” would have to submit about 50 field reports on impromptu interviews with “suspicious characters” each month. To meet expectations, he said officers would have to submit about 40 reports. He said that given the department’s number of officers, that would lead to a high number of field interviews conducted each month.

“Keep in mind, there are 60 officers,” Daniels said. “Do the math. Carbondale may have a lot of suspicious characters, but I’m not sure if it has 2,400 suspicious characters per month. But it better, because there’s going to be 2,400 field interview reports per month, according to this quota.”

City Manager Kevin Baity said Friday that the proposed standards developed by Chief Jody O’Guinn’s office were drafted in the spring and received “very little response” from Daniels and the police union until they recently were filed with the Labor Relations Board.

Baity said other departments within city government also have performance measures in place to evaluate employees, but no such metrics currently exist for employees of the police department. Baity took issue with Daniels’ characterization of the proposed standards as being quotas.

“We are looking for a mechanism and criteria to evaluate police officers in the performance of their duties,” Baity said. “These aren’t quotas. These are performance standards to evaluate officers to make sure they’re doing the job they were hired to do.”

At the council meeting, Daniels said the performance standards amounted to little more than a quota.

“They call it a work standard, but it is in fact an old-fashioned quota where officers are given a matrix which shows them how many DUIs per month they are expected to arrest regardless of whether they work on day shift or night shift, weekdays or weekends,” Daniels said. “The matrix tells them how many traffic stops they’re expected to make per month … the matrix even tells them how much discretion they have to make warnings.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Joel Fritzler issued a letter to all sworn officers of the department last week reminding them of their oaths and that “police have to live by a higher set of rules and ethics.” Fritzler said police work is different than working in a retail store or a movie theater because of the lives depending on the successful execution of officers’ duties.

“I believe that Carbondale has the most professional police department in the State of Illinois and, having relatives that serve and have served as police officers, you have my deepest respect but, if you are no longer able to comply with your oath or faithfully discharge the duties of your office, you are not being true to yourself or to the residents of Carbondale,” Fritzler wrote. “If this is the case, the best course for all concerned may be for you to seek a vocation that is more suited to your needs and goals.”

Daniels shot back with a strongly worded letter addressed to Fritzler.

“As Mayor of Carbondale, you yourself were elected to provide reasonable leadership and maintain an administration whose decisions are compliant with the Labor Act, The First Amendment, and common sense,” Daniels wrote. “I take your letter to the Officers of Carbondale as a thinly veiled threat. If this is so, we invite you to resign as Mayor. If it is not, then we take it in the spirit it was given in.”

Fritzler said Friday that he did not intend to take Daniels’ advice, and he also questioned Daniels’ tactic of taking the issue directly to the public. Fritzler said he continues to respect work done by the city’s police.

“I still have full respect for our police department,” Fritzler said. “Like any organization, it just has some personnel issues.”

Chief Jody O’Guinn did not return a message left at his office Friday. Baity said the Labor Relations Board likely would render an opinion on the dispute in the coming weeks.