The Norman Police Department will get new polygraph instruments, employee wellness measures and counseling through a $21,509 federal grant.
A public hearing was a requirement of the grant, but the public hearing portion of Tuesday’s City Council meeting ended as quickly as it started. There was no public comment or council comment after, and the council unanimously approved the grant. The funds are coming to the City of Norman and Cleveland County coffers from the United States Department of Justice Assistance.
John Stege, Norman Police Department’s standards administrator, presented the grant uses to the council Tuesday, and said this grant is an annual and formula-based grant that is issued based on crime statistics.
Before the public hearing portion was motioned, Stephen Tyler Holman, Ward 7 council member, said he is glad to see this item, especially the addition of wellness and counseling. Suicide is not counted as death in the line of duty, he said, but it is a leading cause of death for not only police officers, but for firefighters and other emergency response personnel.
“In being able to help those individuals deal with some of the things they see on a daily basis maybe we can prevent some of that,” Holman said. “I would like to see even more efforts, anything that we can do to help in that regard.”
The funds are through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, with $19,358 going to the city and the remaining $2,151 passing through to Cleveland County.
The police department plans to spend $10,615 on two polygraph machines and $8,743 on voluntary employee wellness checks. The Cleveland County Sheriff’s office plans to update their own polygraph instruments with its $2,151.
NPD employs three commissioned officers who are also polygraph examiners. The department uses polygraph examination in both criminal and administrative interviews and pre-employment background investigations.
Two new polygraph instruments were requested, because the existing ones are approaching 10 years in service and are no longer supported by the manufacturer. The majority of criminal examinations are held in the Norman Investigations Center, and administrative and background examinations are held in the main headquarters building in the Municipal Complex.
Officer Wellness and Safety is intending to use remaining funds from the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing to provide voluntary mental health wellness checks for up to 50 employees, . This will be an additional measure to the Employee Assistance Program and required Fitness of Duty Examinations that all City of Norman employees already receive.
The President’s Task force identified that the daily stressors of working with difficult individuals, responding to tragic events, continuous criticism from internal and external sources often stretches an employee’s coping abilities resulting in frayed family relationships, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, overaggressive policing and suicide.
The City of Norman staff report written by Stege says, “police culture itself has not historically supported efforts to treat, or even acknowledge, mental concerns because they are seen as signs of weakness.”
In other business:
— Resolution for Animal Welfare Award: The council unanimously passed a resolution which awarded the Norman Animal Welfare with the 2019 Volunteerism Award. Pam Jordan and Tom Turner were both recognized with volunteer awards for their work at the Norman Animal Welfare.
— First reading for the UNP TIF project plan amendments: On the consent docket the council unanimously passed an ordinance upon first reading that amends the project plan for the University North Park Tax Increment Finance District. The first public hearing will be held on Oct. 22 for the project plan amendments. The council is trying to end the UNP Tax Increment Finance District and will hold a final public hearing and vote Nov. 5 .
— Mayoral Appointments of commissioners: On the consent docket the council unanimously passed several mayoral appointments: Tom Burke, Ward 2, and James Barnett, Ward 6, ADA Citizens Advisory Committee; Elizabeth Ross, Ward 8, Board of Parks Commissioners; Matthew Rom, Ward 5, Environmental Control Advisory Board; Joan Koos, Ward 4, Brent Swift, Ward 4, Emily Wilkins, Ward 4, Historic District Commission; Christina Owen, Ward 4, Daniel Dukes, Ward 7, Human Rights Commission; Matthew Peacock, Ward 8, Planning Commission; and Jane Purcell, Ward 2, Michael Morehead, Ward 5, Norman Election Commission.
— Implementation plan revisions: On consent the council passed a resolution to revise the implementation plan for projects funded by revenues collected from the Norman Forward temporary sales tax.