Hillsboro officers and staff want changes in agency in wake of former chiefs departure

Responses to a survey of those working for the Hillsboro Police Department indicate that interim Chief Ron Louie and the agency as a whole have a lot of work to do.Ron Louie

In early March, Louie sent out questionnaires to the entire HPD staff — police officers and employees — asking for their views on how the department is functioning. The surveys went out as part of the process of preparing to bring in a new chief.

“When I first got here, I asked the officers and staff, ‘If you were to describe how you feel in one word, what would the word be?’” Louie explained. “And aside from that, I wanted to know how they see the department today.”

The survey came in the wake of the sudden and unexpected resignation of Police Chief Carey Sullivan, whose final day as head of the department was March 9. Louie, who was hired in early March to take over as chief until a full-time replacement could be found, realized that getting input from the department’s officers and staff was essential in rebuilding morale — especially given the widespread belief that Sullivan was not communicating well with the officers in his command and did not appear to have their support.

The survey reinforced that belief.

“It tends to be on the negative side,” Louie said.

The one-word responses HPD employees returned painted a picture of a department needing a change: “oppressed,” “toxic,” “discouraged,” “unsupported,” “leaderless,” “confused,” “unfocused,” and “disconnected” were a sampling of the types of adjectives the survey of staff came back with.

“Those are the words. It tells you a lot,” Louie said. “This is a snapshot of the organization prior to March 4.”

However, just asking for the views of those working in the department was in itself a step toward rebuilding trust and communication, and according to Lt. Mike Rouches, spokesman for the department, officers valued the outreach.

“The officers and professional staff do appreciate the opportunity to have a voice and offer input,” said Rouches. “Many have good ideas and a great view of what works. I would say the general feeling was that we had issues of lack of direction, and in the end, our people just really want a chance to serve.”

Approximately 70 percent of the department’s employees turned in responses.

“We had 179 surveys that went out to the entire department, and we received 117 responses pretty quick,” Louie said. “I was impressed with the number of responses and the quickness of the responses.”

Despite the negative feedback, Louie kept his sense of humor. “One thing to say is, the only way to go is up!” he said.

Rouches believes the atmosphere within the department is already getting better.

“Morale is improved, and folks are hopeful we can get back to serving the folks of Hillsboro,” Rouches explained. “Overall, this is a good chance for us to grow and learn. We are a good police department and have great people.”

Louie said he places great value on hearing directly from those within the department, and he pointed out that a sense of hope also came through in the survey results.

“I said the responses could be anonymous, but most put their names to it,” Louie said. “I’m pleased with the trust and sincerity of responses. All expressed relief that we are reinforcing partnerships and teamwork.”

According to Louie, the department is now heading into the solution stage.

“The survey was the starting point, and now we’re looking at suggestions to fix and respond,” Louie said. “People have a lot of frustrations. People with these frustrations are also best at identifying what needs to be done to fix the problems.”

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