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Westfield State criminal justice professor co-authors climate study of Hartford Police Department

Westfield State University Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice Lisa Barao, Ph.D., co-authored an independent year-long climate study of the Hartford, Conn., Police Department (HPD). The study, recently released by the City of Hartford, examines the department’s “weakness and avenues for organizational improvement,” and found “most officers felt that in recent years the department has been moving in a better direction and is focused on continual improvement.”

Partnering with Chelsea Farrell, Ph.D., assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Rhode Island, Dr. Barao used Hartford police officer surveys and interviews and administrative and case data to assess seven areas: discipline, misconduct, and harassment; diversity in promotions and assignments; equipment, resources, and training; officer wellness; recruitment and retention; transparency, communication, and fairness; and workplace environment.

“The goal of this assessment was to holistically evaluate organizational features and workplace perceptions within the HPD with an intentional focus on examining organizational characteristics that might lead to the negative treatment of officers by their peers or supervisors,” said Drs. Barao and Farrell in a joint statement. “We utilized a mixed-methods approach to collect and analyze officer surveys, officer interviews, administrative demographic data, and employee complaint files.” 

“Our police department is committed to constant improvement, both in terms of serving residents and building a fair, inclusive workplace,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. “This deep, broad, independent assessment identifies both a number of strengths and a number of areas for improvement, and we will be working with [Hartford Police] Chief Jason Thody and his team to review and implement reforms to build a stronger culture. Our officers do incredibly difficult work on a daily basis, and we need to do everything to support them—and hold them to the highest standards. Our community deserves an effective police department that builds trust through transparency and a dedication to self-assessment and improvement, and this study will help the department move forward.”

The Hartford Police Department requested the organizational climate study, following a period of administrative turnover and two high-profile complaints of sexual harassment, according to Dr. Barao.

“The police administration expressed interest in evaluating the workplace experiences and perceptions of officers across a variety of areas to develop plans for internal organizational improvement,” she said, adding that the study was supported by City of Hartford project funds.

With more than 6,000 alumni who majored in criminal justice, it is one of the University’s most popular fields of study. “The Westfield State criminal justice program has an excellent reputation in the region and has educated some of the finest, most accomplished professionals who serve the public in all fields of criminal justice every day,” said Daniel Price, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Westfield State Department of Criminal Justice.

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