Case Study: PSO Jane Roberts
Write a 2–4-page paper (excluding cover page) responding to the following:
Read the case study below in Effective Police Supervision and assess the sound operational decisions made by the sergeant.
Consider the following questions:
- Did Sergeant Williams make a sound operational decision?
- What mistakes were made at the beginning?
- How can future situations like this be prevented?
- Who is at fault?
- What sound operational decision should the sergeant now make to resolve the situation?
Jane Roberts Public Safety Officer
Department: The Astonville Police Department has 166 sworn officers who are also certified as firefighters. Twelve years ago, the Astonville city council adopted a proposal to combine traditional fire and police personnel into one public safety unit. The measure was intended to reduce costs and make more efficient use of manpower. As it turned out, neither traditional police officers nor traditional firefighters liked the idea. While it did save money during the first few years, costs associated with the public safety officer (PSO) program have continued to rise. For one thing, turnover is very high. The city is always trying to fill positions in the PSO program. New recruits obtain training as police officers and then obtain training as firefighters. Once certified, they can apply for traditional police or firefighting positions elsewhere in the state, often making considerably more money than with Astonville. In an effort to keep officers from taking other jobs in nearby cities, the administration encouraged supervisors to be “easy” on discipline and to give officers under their supervision some leeway. As a result, officers are “allowed” to take extra time on breaks, take classes at the local university during their shift, and even take time out of their shift to go to special functions at their children’s schools and such. “As long as the calls are answered promptly, let them have a break if nothing is going on,” supervisors were told by the managers.
Crime: Astonville enjoys a low crime rate. It is located in a suburban area 20 miles from a metropolitan city. There were two homicides last year, both domestic in nature. Four rapes were reported, all involving juvenile girls with adult perpetrators. Fourteen felonious assaults and two robberies were the total of crimes against persons last year. Property crimes were up from the previous year, particularly residential burglary. Several new, high-income housing projects were developed in Astonville, which seems to have attracted burglars to the area.
Community: Astonville had a population of 84,000 at the last census. However, the city has been growing steadily for the past several years. Due to its convenient location to the metropolitan area and its low property tax rates, Astonville has become popular with younger professionals working in the metropolitan area. The result has been an increase in the number of subdivisions with high-income housing.
Astonville has a shopping mall and several specialty shopping centers. The downtown area hosts specialty shops and restaurants that are popular with the younger professionals that have recently moved to the city. There are seven public schools and three Christian schools. The Christian schools are also popular with the younger professional residents. There is one hospital and also several private clinics. The largest and most visible institution in Astonville is the state university, which normally has about 12,000 students. The state university has a criminal justice program, and the city frequently tries to recruit new graduates from that program into the Astonville Public Safety Bureau.
Officer: Public Safety Officer Jane Roberts has just fulfilled her six-month probationary period with the Astonville PSO Bureau. She was in the top 10 percent of her graduating class from both the police academy and the fire training academy. She is attractive, single, and young. She is also a bit self-assured, not afraid to speak her mind, and can hold her own with some of the more flirtatious male officers with her no-nonsense demeanor. Roberts has a lot of common sense and is capable of doing the jobs of both policing and firefighting, as she has demonstrated over the past six months. She graduated with a baccalaureate degree in criminal justice from the state university. Although she was offered jobs with other substantially larger departments, she elected to take the job with Astonville. The cross-training in police and firefighting is what attracted her to the department.
Problem: Roberts was assigned to a field training officer (FTO) for her six-month probationary period. Sergeant Williams, Roberts’ supervisor, assigned her to FTO Andrew Tibbetts. Sergeant Williams had some doubts about assigning Roberts to Tibbetts. After all, Roberts was an attractive young woman and Tibbetts, although married with two children, is considered to be something of a “ladies man.” Tibbetts is jokingly known as “Adonis” by other officers because of his extreme neatness and concern for his physical appearance. However, Roberts seemed to be able to handle these types of men and Tibbetts was the best FTO.
Roberts completed her field training and probationary period with high evaluations from both FTO Tibbetts and Sergeant Williams. And while Roberts is now on her own as a regular member of the shift, she still relies heavily on Tibbetts for advice and backup. Sergeant Williams also noticed a more than friendly “bond” between the two and has overheard other officers comment about seeing Tibbetts and Roberts kissing in the police parking garage on occasion. In fact, Sergeant Williams found the two having a heated argument in the parking garage last week. When the sergeant intervened to find out what was wrong, the two parted simply saying “nothing’s wrong.” The sergeant assumed it was a “lover’s spat” and decided it was none of his business so long as they both did their jobs.
The next day after roll call, Roberts stopped Sergeant Williams, asking to meet with him. The sergeant escorted Roberts to the supervisor’s office and asked her to sit down. Roberts refused to sit but wanted to explain what the argument was about in the parking garage between her and Tibbetts. “Sergeant, I want you to know first. I’m pregnant. The baby belongs to Tibbetts. He won’t leave his wife and won’t have anything to do with me now.” “Oh, Jane, I’m sorry to hear about that. But you know our policy about pregnancy. You’ll have to take a leave of absence and…” “Damn your policies,” Jane interrupts. “This happened because of you. It’s your fault. You put me with that ladies’ hound for over six months. You knew what kind of man he was and how vulnerable I was. You didn’t supervise us at all, just turned us loose. And to top it off, I got pregnant on duty. I talked with a lawyer friend of mine last night, and she said I could claim workers’ compensation since my condition occurred on duty, right under your nose.”
What Would You Do? Who is at fault in this case? What recourse does Sergeant Williams have at this point? What mistakes were made from the beginning, and how can future situations like this be prevented? Do you think Roberts has a workers’ compensation claim?