By Carlos Avalos
On November 6, 2020, the policing procedure consulting firm Hillard Heintze/Jensen Hughes Company completed its independent assessment of the Fontana Police Department via the department’s and city’s urgent request. Hillard Heintze believes the FPD’s willingness to allow this assessment of itself is proof that the department is attacking head-on the issues that plague the department and police departments across the United States.
One such issue under widespread public scrutiny nationally and locally is ethnic diversity of the employees within police departments. This was a central issue in the review of the Fontana Police Department, along with ethics and policing practices. In its report of the Fontana Police Department, Hillard Heintze noted its assessment focused on and identified areas where the FPD could make operational changes to improve its services. This included increasing diversity within the department and improving engagement and training.
Boiled down to its essence, the Hillard Heintze report dealt with how the Fontana Police Department treats and perceives the people it serves, and how the FPD deals with the people trying to become members of the department.
An issue in American policing is an us-versus-them mentality, which is not complex. Police agencies and unions are populated by officers who are predominantly white, which some assert makes policing a white profession. Women are also greatly underrepresented in policing, so a more accurate characterization might be that policing in America is a predominantly white male profession. Many times, though not universally, this circumstance is accompanied by the mindset that certain groups of people are more of a threat to a police officer. It has been argued that this can be clearly affirmed by the way in which police officers in America encounter Caucasians compared to people of any other race, then how they react, and their choices to use deadly force or not, which many assert shows that something is amiss with the overall training, psychology and ethos in American policing.
Of relevance is that negative minority community perceptions of police in America have a historical basis in fact. A primary example of this is the war on drugs, with its primary focus in black and other minority neighborhoods where stop-and-frisk police protocols routinely subjected hundreds of thousands of innocent minorities to such searches, which exacerbated feelings of marginalization on the part of those frisked and created frictions with the police. Other historical examples of the disparate treatment of members of the minority population in the United States outside the context of policing consists of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow laws, red lining, voter suppression, lynchings, barred entry into real estate ownership, banking and loan denials, and employment discrimination.
Any negative feelings from the minority community toward police did not start with the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Gardner, Daunte Wright, Rayshard Brooks, Daniel Prude, Atatiana Jefferson, Aura Rosser, Stephon Clark, Botham Jean, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, or Freddie Gray. These minorities were killed for such offenses as selling loose cigarettes, using counterfeit money, selling CDs and DVDs or upon being pulled over while driving, while in their own homes including while they slept or for standing in his grandmother’s yard. Feelings of animosity, disdain, and fear have existed even prior to policing in America. Do the police kill white people for engaging in these types of activities? If so, do they do so with the same frequency? The answer to these questions are up for debate, but appears as if they do not, or at least such killings are not caught on camera as much.
The Sentinel reached out to Fontana Police Chief William Greene for comment on the Hillard Heintze assessment on June 2, 2021. For the record, Chief Greene stated in response to the Hillard Heintze 2020 report on the Fontana Police Department that he found “the report/ assessment encouraging, but there are things that they [his officers] currently do that can be absolutely improved upon.” He went on to say that “The FPD is a place of constant assessment, self reflection, and change, and we are dedicated to continue to do things better then they have ever been done.”
The Hillard Heintze report started off with an overall general recommendation that the city and the FPD embrace and implement the recommendations contained in its report such that the department will have a “renewed sense of how personnel can improve community relationships, increase and value diversity, and develop best-practice internal affairs protocols.”
Hillard Heintze, a Chicago-based company founded in 2004 by Terry G. Hillard, a retired superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, and Arnette F. Heintze, retired special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service’s Chicago Field Office and an ex-Fortune 100 director of security, touts itself as a strategic security risk management and corporate investigations consulting firm. In 2019, it merged with Jensen Hughes, which bills itself as a global leader in safety, security and risk-based engineering and consulting. Hillard Heitze employs as some of its analysts and experts individuals who were once themselves police officers and remain attuned to law enforcement rules and standards and have valuable insight to assist police departments devise more efficient, transparent, and honest internal affairs protocols.
For some, it is puzzling how a police organization would need a recommendation to or have to first check with a consultant on the importance of having a diverse police force that mirrors the community that department serves, and need to be told why there is more value in having police officers who are not just Caucasian.
The introduction of the Hillard Heintze report calls upon the Fontana Police Department to identify its organizational vulnerabilities and be committed to improvement via training, communication, and initiative. The assessment/report credits the police department’s leadership with an existing commitment to excellence, stating that is what drove the department’s command echelon to seek the assessment. This represented, Hillard Heintze stated, what is presumed to be a hard and purposeful glance into the police department, a willingness to open the department to scrutiny so ways could be identified to improve department operations and service to the community.
This report states that the Fontana Police Department is trying to be proactive and increase confidence in the police in the city. According to Hillard Heintze, many police agencies and officers are confused about what it takes to build real trust and confidence within the communities they serve; Fontana, is no different. Thousands of Fontanans will never directly encounter a police officer. Nevertheless, a majority of Fontana’s residents will. The department can begin to gain the trust and confidence of the more than one hundred thousand Fontana residents who are protected minority members as defined by U.S. law through icebreakers such as having coffee events, cookouts involving the public or giving away toys and other good faith gestures and being nice to the masses, but it will never achieve actual trust building in the community if behind the public’s back the department is being dishonest with its rules, protocols, procedures, and disciplinary actions against its officers, according to Hillard Heintze. Everything needs to flow together and be genuine. If not, it is subpar and pseudo.
The Hillard Heintze methodology used to analyze the Fontana Police Department was based on the six strategic principles of (1) independent and objective analysis, (2) solicitation of multiple viewpoints, (3) an acute focus on collaboration and partnership, (4) an information-driven decision-making mindset, (5) a structured and highly disciplined engagement approach and (6) clear and open lines of communication.
The only way that the Fontana Police Department could truly fulfill the six objectives of analysis is if its leadership allowed someone to investigate or analyze the department from top to bottom who was not picked by the department. Otherwise, this Hillard Heintze methodology might be flawed. The Sentinel’s informants within the police department stated that this was not an independent and objective analysis. According to them, the Fontana Police Department’s motive is to make it appear that its leadership has solicited multiple viewpoints when it in reality has not, and the information used to drive decision-making comes from a silo made up of 95 percent white men, and in their own words, the Fontana Police Department “has never had clear and open lines of communication with the public.” This is because when one party is constantly manipulating and deceiving the other, open and clear lines of communication cannot be achieved.
The actual physical visit by Hillard Heintze’s to the Fontana Police Department consisted of interviews with members of the department from all ranks. The analysis also included a random sampling of department internal affairs cases handled or being handled between the years 2018 and 2019 and through June 2020. A major issue the Sentinel noted was that the report does not say who made the random sampling, who selected the cases to be reviewed or how the random sample was developed.
The stakeholders involved who were interviewed were Chief William Green and his command staff, Fontana Police Department supervisors and officers working in internal affairs, recruiting, hiring and community policing, non-sworn staff members, a random sampling of department members hired between 2017 and 2020, including those who were at that time in the police academy. They also interviewed Mayor Acquanetta Warren, other members of the Fontana city council, the newly formed police chief’s round table committee, and then followed through with individual interviews with the police chief’s round table committee members.
It is important to hear the positive remarks and stories from internal personnel. Nevertheless, such interviews of people who are part of the same team have a decided tendency to elicit calculated statements – one description might be the bending of the truth and another more direct description might be lies – to make the team look good, particularly since their jobs and the well being of their families depend on how they respond to questions.
As American police culture shows, unfortunately many times these officers want to speak the truth, even if it puts their department in a negative light, but because of the reprisals for breaking the blue line, they just put their head down and mind their own business.
This community round table is like the round table San Bernardino County District Attorney Jason Anderson has put in place and touts as a major progressive step forward to show his department’s willingness to create change by having normal people in the community work hand-in-hand with law enforcement. Jason Anderson’s round table consists of community members from the five county supervisorial districts who work with law enforcement. In theory, this is a great idea, and every police organization should have something similar where the community can give guidance, express concerns, and offer recommendations. The problem is, at least in the cases of Fontana’s and Jason Anderson’s round tables, there is an overwhelming indication they were assembled for show. The people on the committees were ones who were picked on the basis of their offering the least resistance to the status quo. When this happens, the committee is irrelevant and non-beneficial to normal citizens and the broader community.
Carlos Avalos’s analysis of the Hillard Heintz report will continue in upcoming editions of the Sentinel.