Berkeley Police Department responds to audit on police injury prevention

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Berkeley Chief of Police Michael Meehan recently submitted a response to a city audit about efforts to improve investigations and prevention of police injuries within the Berkeley Police Department.

The audit, conducted by city auditor Ann-Marie Hogan in October, reported that the unpredictable nature of police work makes it difficult to set safety standards, and provided recommendations to help the city lessen workers’ compensation costs by reducing and preventing employee injuries.

The audit’s recommendations include developing written guidelines for investigating the causes of injuries, training supervisors for such investigations, sharing workers’ compensation information across departments, improving injury data collection, updating injury code classifications and formalizing an employee wellness program.

“The goal of the audit is to help determine and understand the root causes of injuries suffered by BPD personnel,” said BPD spokesperson Officer Jennifer Coats in an email.

According to Hogan, determining necessary preventative programs requires the acquisition of data that specifies why injuries are occurring.

A “core-related-cause approach” recommended in the audit aims to diagnose the cause of workplace injuries, rather than simply identifying the symptoms. Such an approach has been partially incorporated in the form of a written guide, which the occupational health and safety officer and the Citywide Safety Committee is finalizing.

The written guide delineates supervisors’ responsibilities for accident investigation, as well as steps in gathering information and assessing factors relating to an incident.

Additionally, the audit found difficulties in sharing information across databases, such as between the department of human resources and BPD. To account for this, the city implemented a single database and defined protocols regarding privacy of information in order to remove redundancy and ensure consistent injury information.

Finally, the audit recommended that BPD formalize an employee wellness program in a written plan, which Meehan said is the only recommendation that has not been implemented.

Despite this, BPD has provided staff with training regarding the importance of sleep, exercise, diet and fatigue mitigation — as well as formalized department support groups, peer counseling, a critical-incident stress management team and a chaplain program, according to the report.

“A good employee wellness program tailors to the individual health issues of employees,” Hogan said.

The report also said any fiscal impact of the wellness program implementation could be offset by reducing sick-time usage.

Addressing some community concerns that there are not enough police officers on the streets, Hogan said the solution lies not in hiring more officers but in focusing on implementing the audit’s recommendations and providing resources to the department of human resources and BPD.

“These audits … help make this city, as an organization, stronger,” said city spokesperson Matthai Chakko. “BPD has already implemented four out of six of the audit’s recommendations … so they’re well on their way.”

Contact Elaina Provencio at [email protected].