By Krystal Spring/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Havre police officers may face a new evaluation of their work performance if an appraisal system is approved in the officers' new labor contract, now being negotiated by the city and the Montana Public Employees Association.
The officers' last two-year contract expired June 30. The Labor Negotiations Committee of the Havre City Council and the MPEA have met several times since April to negotiate a new contract.
During Wednesday night's negotiation session, union representative Tom Bivins said implementing a performance appraisal system would help set a standard for officers, measuring things like policing skills and judgment. He said the appraisal is designed to help officers succeed, but it could also be used for disciplinary measures.
"It can be used for a vehicle of discipline, but that's not really the goal. No officer is opposed to this," Bivins said. "It's really a good thing for both the city and the officers if it's done correctly. But these things can't be done overnight. They're usually a work in progress. It takes years to develop one that's good."
Barthel said today that the performance appraisal would be a more structured evaluation than what is now in place. He said new officers are evaluated daily in writing throughout their initial training period. After that, officers' work performance is measured by shift supervisors and the department's administration.
However, the department does not have a standard annual evaluation.
Barthel said he plans to work with MPEA to write up a performance appraisal system for the department.
"We feel it would be a good way to measure our shortfalls and help us recognize areas that need to be improved," he said.
Bivins said the Montana Highway Patrol, the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the the local unit of the U.S. Border Patrol all have successful performance appraisal systems in place.
"We could take a look at their performance appraisals and use it for a guideline but it's important that we find one that fits the officers here in Havre," Bivins said at Wednesday's meeting.
Also at the meeting, the union proposed giving field training officers $50 a month as compensation for their work in training new officer recruits. Havre police Sgt. Bill Wilkinson said the training is usually a 14-week period for each officer.
"It's really a legitimate request," Bivins said. "Anything the city can do to reward an officer for their continued dedication is a good thing."
Labor Negotiations Committee chair Terry Schend, the only member of the committee present at Wednesday's meeting, proposed a tentative counteroffer to compensate FTOs. He said he preferred paying the FTOs $60 per month during the 14-week training period, not for the entire year.
Until final tax numbers are received from Hill County, the city and MPEA have left two of the most important terms of the contract - salary and health insurance - on the back burner.
"It's hard to discuss those issues when the city doesn't know yet what kind of dollar figures they're working with," Bivins said. "We can talk about that more when you get budget numbers from the county," he told Schend.