Amid growing complaints from his officers about low morale due to a lack of promotions, Montgomery County Police Chief Robert J. diGrazia said yesterday he will implement a plan designed to give hundreds of officers the chance for advancement in the near future.
DiGrazia's announcement of a new "career development" plan comes at a time when his administration is under fire from the county's Fraternal Order of Police and the Police Association, both of which have voted no confidence in the chief. Both organizations cited the lack of promotions as a main source of discontent.
The career development plan was first devised under Col. Kenneth Watkins, diGrazia's predecessor as chief, and diGrazia made its implementation one of his priorities when he took over as chief two years ago. But diGrazia had encountered difficulty winning the support for the program from his officers, and from the county personnel board, whose approval was necessary.
DiGrazia said he made his final pitch for the program at a meeting Aug. 8 with the personnel board, the day after the Fraternal Order, bargaining agent for county police, took its no confidence vote.
Cpl. Jerry Boone, president of the Police Association, yesterday questioned whether diGrazia was merely attempting to "appease the people who voted no confidence . . . Maybe there's no real concern for the police officers," he said.
Boone said he would have preferred the personnel board to hold a public hearing before it made its decision in order to air the officers' concerns about the new program. He said the officers are particularly concerned that a number of positions currently held by police officers are slated to go to civilians in the future, under the new system.
The new plan does away with the current military ranks officers hold, and places them instead in general categories, such as "police officer," "police supervisor," and "police manager." For the first time, an officer's salary will correspond directly to the amount and types of duties the officer performs.
DiGrazia maintains that the new plan provides "more duties, more recognition, and more compensation" for the patrol officer, which represents the majority of officers. He said that because of budget restraints, promotions for patrol officers have been limited in the past and, consequently, many officers reach retirement age without advancing farther than private.
The plan, he said, "eliminates a situation where people of different ranks are doing the same job . . . It's a more fair, equitable distribution of the work load, of positions and promotions."
The method of obtaining promotions also will change under the new system, diGrazia said. Traditionally officers have taken promotions exams that tests them on general questions. Officers would end up taking the same exam, no matter for what rank they were applying.
Under the new system, the exams will relate specifically to the job for which officers are applying, according to Philip H. Marks, diGrazia's chief administrative assistant.
He said some promotions will require only a performance evaluation by the officer's supervisor. Officers applying for supervisory positions will be asked to perform a series of role-playing exercises to test their ability to handle supervisory duties.