We interviewed Chief Jim Viadero of the Newtown, CT Police Department. A former command staff member for the Bridgeport Police. Jim serves as an adjunct professor at Sacred Heart University. We spoke about the issues of policing, the adjustments needed to adapt for Covid, and to avoid issues that have plagued US policing in the past few years.
This wide-ranging discussion helped to frame the state of policing, the need for training, and the difficult problems of recruiting and retention in policing today.
Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you'd like to arrange for facilitated training, or consulting, or talk about steps you might take to improve your leadership and help in your quest for promotion, contact Steve at email@example.com
[00:00:02.490] - Intro
Welcome to The CopDoc Podcast. This podcast explores police leadership issues and innovative ideas The CopDoc Podcast thoughts and ideas as he talks with leaders in policing, communities, academia and other government agencies. And now please join Dr. Steve Morreale and industry thought leaders as they share their insights and experience on The CopDoc Podcast.
[00:00:33.500] - Steve Morreale
Well, hello, everybody, this is Steve Morreale, back again from Boston and you're listening to The CopDoc Podcast, and today we're talking to Jim Viadero. He is in Connecticut right now. A full-time police chief has been a chief at the Newtown, Connecticut Police Department, previously with Bridgeport. And so, I want to say good morning to you, Jim.
[00:00:51.620] - Jim Viadero
Good morning. How is everything?
[00:00:53.390] - Steve Morreale
So it is a Friday in the middle of May. And I want you to tell the audience a little bit about you, your history in policing, your trajectory to become a chief. I understand that you have been active in the police officers standards and training in Connecticut, and I'd love to have you tell us about that.
[00:01:11.990] - Jim Viadero
Sure. I've been in law enforcement for thirty-six years and I started off in the city that I was born and bred in, which is Bridgeport, Connecticut. Nineteen eighty five. I entered the academy as a twenty three and a half year old individual. Bridgeport is a pretty large urban area. Part of the largest department in the state of Connecticut at the time was about five hundred police officers sworn kind of rough urban area went through some declines as far as the academy was a big industrial town.
[00:01:36.170] - Jim Viadero
But I was fortunate to enter into a great agency at the time, had some excellent experiences working in some of the rougher areas of town, worked my way up the ladder. I started off from it. I got promoted to sergeant six or seven years after my start as a police officer, working various assignments throughout the patrol division rose to the rank of lieutenant. About a year after I made it, I got put in charge of our police academy.
[00:01:57.920] - Jim Viadero
We had our own satellite academy that trained our officers and officers in Fairfield County in that assignment for about two years. And from that assignment, I became a lieutenant in our Major Crime Bureau, our detective division, and kind of like that for my career. I thought to go off. It was a perfect fit for me. I never, ever had any interest in investigations. But the experiences I learned there and I kind of found that niche, I considered myself pretty good at it.
[00:02:21.350] - Jim Viadero
I was fortunate enough to get promoted to captain also stated a detective division at the time I was running our emergency services unit also. So it's quite busy career. During that time, I was able to continue my education, obtain Bachelor of Science degree from Sacred Heart University continued. I got a master's degree at Sacred Heart University and from there I started teaching at that same university of criminal justice programs. Great career. After twenty-nine and a half years for me to retire, one of my desires was to become a chief of police and through other career choices in Bridgeport.
[00:02:53.710] - Jim Viadero
It wasn't possible in my hometown, but I was lucky enough to apply and put in for a job in my hometown, which is Newtown, Connecticut, and I was appointed chief of police in twenty sixteen there. So pretty much that's typical of a lot of law enforcement officers I consider myself very fortunate, met a great deal of talented individuals throughout my career, had some great experiences. I was able to get a great eation to FBI National Academy, which was an experience of a lifetime and culminated in going to the perfect program, which is the Police Executive Research Forum up at Boston University, some IP essi MIT, which was a great experience.
[00:03:29.450] - Jim Viadero
So I pretty much had a well-rounded experience as an administrative duties in my career. But most of my career was focused on investigations in online and in the line of fire, for lack of a better word.
[00:03:40.970] - Steve Morreale
You know, interesting as you're talking about Bridgeport, I remember I remember working with DEA and there were some gangs that were taking streets over and they would shut it down and they would create. It was very interesting. And it was used to be a training video that I that I used to use where at night, with nightfall would come and they would shoot out the you know what I'm talking about. They would shoot out the lights. They would shut the road down and basically create a toll situation because it was almost like what we're seeing in Portland, an autonomous zone.
[00:04:07.760] - Jim Viadero
Yeah, it was. I mean, that was back in the early 90s. Yes. Yes. And basically what happened was it was a perfect storm, the economic downturn in the city of Bridgeport. Our agency went from five hundred officers to about two hundred and eighty. And crime was on the rise because crack cocaine is basically it was it was a takeover of the city at that time. We partnered with federal authorities four or five years to claw back cops.
[00:04:31.490] - Jim Viadero
We were able to hire another hundred and fifty officers and kind of change the tide of things that were happening in Bridgeport.
[00:04:36.800] - Jim Viadero
Yeah, you have to react to that. And sometimes it creeps up on you and it becomes becomes a challenge to police, especially when you're outgunned and outmanned sometimes. But somehow we like you say, we grab it back. So I want to chat a little bit about your experience now. You talk about the FBI, National Academy and the Senior Management Institute for Policing done by PERF. When do you think that you learned the difference between management and leadership?
[00:05:02.840] - Jim Viadero
It was kind of subtle. I really never focused on it. Captain, which is one of the highest ranking officers in an agency that was running a large division, probably about one hundred officers at the time, maybe a little bit more. And you really didn't think what your real role was because you were so immersed in the day to day operations of what was going on on the field. But at some point, you to almost occupy two different realm.
[00:05:22.790] - Jim Viadero
You have to be a manager after managing the budget. You have to manage personnel contractual issues. But you're also a field officer. But it really didn't kind of like. Go off a light bulb in my head until probably later on in my career, maybe twenty to twenty three years at hey, you know what? There's certain things we need to know about leadership. There's certain things that we need to know about effectively.
Managing an organization would be on the cutting edge and going to the FBI Academy kind of opened my eyes to that.
[00:05:45.830] - Jim Viadero
You meet a lot of different individuals from a lot of different agencies. And you find out that what you do in your police department is not unlike what's going on in any other police department in the United States. And you kind of make those connections here, like, how did you do this? How to overcome this? Did you manage that? I think the next step was going to be before I had met some of the best I considered chiefs in the United States.
[00:06:06.490] - Jim Viadero
And they came in and spoke to you on a one on one basis and told you some of the things they've confronted from that point. You kind of figured you got to make that transition. If you're going to become a chief of police, you're no longer you're no longer you're a law enforcement officer, but you're running an agency. And I always tell everybody when they said, what's the most difficult aspect of being a chief of police? I think it's that transition from being just a police officer to you're kind of caught up in the political realm where you have to have a balancing act and there's certain things that you have to accomplish.
[00:06:33.470] - Jim Viadero
I'll give you a story. You mentioned in my introduction that we just built a new police department up here. And when I came into the agency in 2016, we were in a smaller building, ninety eight hundred square feet for the last 30 years. It was discussed that we had to build a new police department. And one of my jobs was tasked with when I got hired as a you know, we want you to get that project up and running and get it done.
[00:06:53.240] - Jim Viadero
And I was like, all right, there's money there, right? There's there's 15, 20 million dollars. You just got to build it like, no, no, no. That hasn't even been discussed yet. So it started from a concept to going out into the public and winning support politically, getting a referendum passed, working with selectmen, working with the government to actually construct the police department. And that's that's kind of like a little bit different than what you're used to doing as a police officer.
[00:07:15.710] - Jim Viadero
You're actually in a political realm over there to get something done that for your agency. So that in my mind, that's kind of how we went from. I went from a police officer to a manager, kind of like when you become a chief or even when you were a captain and you were in charge, let's go back in time. You were a sergeant. You're in charge of people on the road or people in a detective unit or people in a specialized unit.
[00:07:37.640] - Steve Morreale
And really, your main function is supervision, getting the work done, making sure it's done OK, sort of keeping people at bay so that they can do their jobs. And then you move into a Lieutenant's position and now you are a manager of leaders or a leader of managers. And as you move up and up and up, more and more of that means that there's more people who have responsibility, who have accountability under you or in concert with you.
[00:08:02.270] - Steve Morreale
What kinds of things from your experience do you look to impart to new lieutenants or to new sergeants? You know, what kinds of conversations do you have about the expectations of the people, the expectations of the department, the expectations of the town, your expectations?
[00:08:19.280] - Jim Viadero
You know, Steve, I think the most important thing that I learned through my career, I was very fortunate to have some good mentors. And one of my mentors was an assistant chief. His name is Robert Mangano, passed away. And he always told me, he said, hey, you know what? Know your people and you have to talk to your people. And I always remembered as being an assistant chief in a larger agency at the time.
[00:08:37.880] - Jim Viadero
I started off as a Sergeant, actually as a patrolman under him and then a sergeant. He always took the time to talk to the individuals that worked for him. I saw him meet with sergeants, lieutenants, meet with his captains, and whatever his vision was, he imparted upon them and helped them get that vision across to the men and women below. And he always took the time to speak to them. And he always he always knew at the time maybe get two hundred people under his command, but he always knew pretty much everybody and what they did, what what they liked, what they didn't like.
[00:09:07.580] - Jim Viadero
And to me and I looked at that and I kind of emulated that. I want to be that person. I said, you know, it it's kind of difficult because when you get caught up in your world of managing something, you got other things going on. You're at thirty five thousand feet. But you've got to remember that your job is managing people. You have to know the people that work for you. So to me, I think the biggest thing is being a communicator, being able to speak to your people, understanding what drives them, what their likes and dislikes are, and kind of fitting those round pegs around old old.
[00:09:33.200] - Jim Viadero
To me, that was a job you have to do. And you have to say, I look at it as being a leader, sometimes just getting people to do something they don't normally want to do because we have to do it. But I think it's more palatable if they understand what you're trying to do and they can relate to you in a way that they don't see you as just a figurehead. You're kind of involved in what they're doing.
[00:09:50.540] - Steve Morreale
Well, one of the things about Simon Sinek wrote many, many years ago, and when I'm doing training, it's a book that I hold up in front of everybody.
[00:09:56.450] - Steve Morreale
It's called Start With Why? And it seems to me that and I'd be curious to know how you feel about this. It seems to me that wherever you can explain why why we're going in this direction, why we're thinking of doing this, why we need you to do this, it makes it so much easier. When I speak with sergeants, I'll say to them, you know, what pisses you off when people ask me, why? Why do I have to do that?
[00:10:15.170] - Steve Morreale
OK, time out. When somebody ask you to do something, do you ever want to know why why we're doing it? And does it make it easier and more palatable to explain why whenever possible? What's your thought on that?
[00:10:25.880] - Jim Viadero
Yeah, I agree with 100 percent. I mean, we're in a paramilitary type of organization and there's times that we have to. Give orders and tell people to do things, and there can't be a discussion in a crisis situation. But, you know, there's other times that we have directives that we have to fulfill or use jobs that we have to do that. I think it doesn't take more than five minutes to sometimes explain somebody, hey, this is why we're doing this.
[00:10:44.000] - Jim Viadero
I need you to do this and this is why we're doing it and kind of give them hey, here's a benefit of why we're doing this. And I think for the most part, people say, yeah, I don't agree with it, but, OK, I'm going to get it done for you. And I think how much does it take? Five minutes to talk to somebody. We're kind of like in a generation right now where there's a lot of questions.
[00:11:01.360] - Jim Viadero
Everybody, I came on in the in the early 80s and it was at the tail end of Vietnam War and get a lot of veterans that were police officers. So, you know, veteran officers and individuals that were in the military, they follow orders. Right. You don't ask questions. But if so, it was kind of a different dynamic where right now I think everybody questions authority, regardless if you're a law enforcement officer or they're in the public.
[00:11:23.530] - Jim Viadero
So you got to be able to handle that and accept it and say, hey, what's it take five minutes to give somebody an explanation.
[00:11:30.100] - Steve Morreale
Whenever possible, and I agree with you, when you're in tactical situations, this is not the time to question me. We'll talk about it later. Go to the back door, close that road down, whatever it is. But when you have the time, it really is beneficial in my mind to explain why and to communicate. You said that earlier communication. So you don't have a pen and paper in front of you. So I want to challenge you to put this in your head for a moment.
[00:11:51.370] - Steve Morreale
If you had to talk about a few things that you think are critical elements of leading, what would that include? You said communication, right?
[00:11:58.970] - Jim Viadero
Yeah, critical elements and communication, I think is number one. I think you have to be inspirational. And I understand that that inspirational work, there's leaders that are out there that they're not going to be that person that inspires everybody. But I think you have to show them that if you're a leader, you have to be good at what you do. You have to have a passion for what you do. One of my biggest things that I always thought was important was education.
[00:12:19.030] - Jim Viadero
And I had an opportunity to get an education when I was a police officer, when I started leading individuals as a sergeant and the lieutenant, the captain, I always thought I would go back to school. There's life after law enforcement. And I think you have to better yourself. You have to inspire people to lead by example. I know that's kind of like a mundane everybody talks about lead by example. You can't expect people to do something that you're not going to do yourself and that one of the biggest things you have to be to be effectively got to be enthusiastic.
[00:12:44.940] - Jim Viadero
Right. I get up every morning just like everybody else understands. I'm tired. I'm like, I don't feel like going in today dealing with this. When you kind of got to put your game face on and go in there and being enthusiastic, you can't let people see you get flustered. You can't let people see you be defeated. So I think those are some of the qualities I think a good leader has to have. And then the other thing you have to do is you've got to trust the people that work for you.
[00:13:06.100] - Jim Viadero
You can't be afraid to ask. You're a chief of police. You can't be afraid to ask a patrolman for an idea. And I think that's where a lot of individuals fail. Once you get I look at a lot of my peers and I see a lot of individuals that are successful and you kind of look at their traits. But I think some of the things that happen when you become a chief for you, maybe too long, are you been in the profession too long, you fail to see that the value of the individuals that are subordinate to you and what they can contribute to you or your organization.
[00:13:32.920] - Steve Morreale
Well, that strikes me, Jim. And by the way, we're talking to Jim Vidro. He's the chief of police in Newtown, Connecticut. That strikes me as something we need to think a little bit about. And so we hire what we would believe is the best person for the job. And then when you first come on, you're told to shut up and do what you're told in a lot of ways. Yeah. And you underutilized eople because we don't engage them to say what's going on at the street.
[00:13:55.840] - Steve Morreale
You're not on the street every day as the chief. You've got your own issues to deal with in the front office and with politics and community complaints and community relations. So it seems to me that that's something that you would begin to drive down through the sergeants and lieutenants. What's going on? What are they thinking? What do we need to do to make it easier for them?
[00:14:15.190] - Jim Viadero
Yeah, you got to empower them. I'll give you a little example from the agency that I'm in right now. You know, Newtown to a tough time after Sandy Hook. And I think the police department was impacted greatly. Our officers saw things that people don't see in their entire career. And at the magnitude that they saw and the grief that they saw in the tragedy was so there was a lot of problems in the agency that were kind of coming to a head a year or two after the event.
[00:14:39.040] - Jim Viadero
Yeah, one of the things that I saw was there was a real disconnect between the members of the agency and the command staff. And when I came into the police department, I saw that as a major problem in Newtown. And I had the opportunity to know a few officers that worked here. And what I did was I sat down with whatever officer patrolmen all the way up to captain, what, the first two weeks and said, hey, tell me what's right here.
[00:15:01.690] - Jim Viadero
Tell me what's going on here. I can't make any promises, but I'm going to take a look at it and make the changes as I see that at work. And just the mere fact that a couple of years later, police officers came up to me and said to me, it just the mere fact that you sat down and talk to me meant the world. So going back to that leadership of that answer and communication is key. A lot of times people don't expect you to make a lot of changes or expect a lot of you.
[00:15:24.250] - Jim Viadero
But the mere fact that you listen to them be considered some of their concerns goes a long way.
[00:15:28.300] - Steve Morreale
It seems so simple. And as busy as you get, you're only as good as your people, and if you don't know your people, how are they going to learn to follow you if you're not asking them for input? How are you? First of all, I like this. And let me throw this at you. And I used the word own versus rent and you and I've been the houses where people own and where people rent. And for some reason, when you drive up to a rented house, you can sort of tell because there's no pride in ownership.
[00:15:56.110] - Steve Morreale
I would think. And the question I have is, is it important for you as a leader to allow your troops to have ownership, to have an ownership stake in the organization, not just you?
[00:16:07.510] - Jim Viadero
Yeah, it's huge. I think it's one of the key components of being successful if their agency. I'm here. I'm the figurehead. It's your agency. You'll be here long after I'm gone. So I want them to have ownership of it. I always tell everybody, don't bring me the problem, just bring me a solution. You know, one of the things going back to what I walked into over here was I would come into work and everybody would wait for me to give them direction.
[00:16:28.570] - Jim Viadero
We need to do this, that it took me about a good six months to a year to actually start my vision and tell everybody I don't need to know every go out and do it. It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. I trust you going out there and make the decision. And I think at that point, individuals understood that, hey, look, it's your police department. I'm here. I'm leaving. I'm going to direct you.
[00:16:46.270] – Steve Morreale
Jim, where there's so much disdain for policing across the country? How do you keep your officers head in the game? How do you talk about things that are going on to work towards avoiding them from replicating themselves in your agency?
[00:18:45.580] - Jim Viadero
You know what, it's difficult every day that conversation comes up in our agency. I think you have to talk about the issues and you see an event. I think it's important that you discuss that event lineups and through training I always looked at training is you always look at videos. You're watching scenarios from other agencies, what things they did wrong, you know, casting aspersions on that agency. So learning tool. So we always got to learn to be better.
[00:19:08.080] - Jim Viadero
It's hard right now. It's hard to motivate, you know, after going through what any law enforcement agency in the last year has probably gone through sustained for law enforcement. And I tell my officers, hey, you look, you know what? It's got to keep on looking forward to get you. Got it. You got to take the high road. Majority of individuals out there support us. I understand the frustration of the community on certain aspects.
[00:19:28.120] - Jim Viadero
As law enforcement. There's nobody that's more disgusted or frustrated when I see what happened to George Floyd. Look at that. There's some videos that you could look at or some of the events. You can look at it as a leader or a police officer. You say, hey, it didn't look good, but I understand what that officer did. You look at what happened to George Floyd the minute you saw it, you knew, hey, what is going on here?
[00:19:47.770] - Jim Viadero
This is not right. And you have to be able to look at that and say you can understand what the public is thinking. You can understand it the disdain for law enforcement. And I always tell our officers, hey, we got to police ourselves. Right? We all know we all know who the bad off. You all know who that officer is.
When you go on a quarrel with them, that's going to take something that is about two miles an hour and drive it up to one hundred miles an hour.
[00:20:07.870] - Jim Viadero
So it's our job to try to police ourselves and call that individual out. You know, there's a lot of changes at Connecticut. I think Connecticut, probably California had the most progressive police accountability bill that was passed this past year. And it was a lot of concern and a lot of pushback from law enforcement as to what was kind of delineated in our police accountability bill. We broke it down and discussed it. And then we really looked at and said, hey.
[00:20:29.860] - Jim Viadero
Is there anything in there that we haven't, we're not really doing already enacted? No, we got body cameras, we got our cameras, we got a duty to intervene. Yeah, we had it. We never had chokeholds in our policy. Qualified immunity was a sticking point there. People really concerned about that, because right now I'm out here doing a job and I might they make a mistake one day and that's our protection. So, you know, that was one of the big issues here, used to force the language for use of force.
[00:20:52.650] - Jim Viadero
Connecticut can change a little bit, not substantially, but just just enough to concern officers and the focus of oversight with police officers using force and deadly physical force. So I think the thing there was to discuss what the changes are and the way I kind of explained it to a lot of my officers were when I started in nineteen eighty five to where we are right now. Yeah, there's been changes in law enforcement. You have to be able to live with it.
[00:21:16.870] - Jim Viadero
This is a career you chose and adapt to it. I don't think there's anything that's been enacted that is going to seriously jeopardize an officer. As far as some of the the laws that have been passed, I think the biggest concern that I have is a law enforcement officer is some of the climate in the public towards law enforcement. Not valuing that law enforcement officer is a mother, is a father, is a husband, a wife, sister or brother.
[00:21:41.590] - Jim Viadero
And you think you know what, you deal with enough enforcement officers. I don't think there's a police officer that puts out a badge every day and go out there and say, I'm not intentionally going to hurt somebody. There are bad individuals out there who are bad, bad officers out there to make bad decisions. But for the most part, I think officers want to go out there and do a good job. And I stress that upon my officers, they do what you do.
[00:21:58.300] - Jim Viadero
All right. Do what you do every day and go out there and do your job. And I can't guarantee you that you're not going to be put in a predicament like that. But use good judgment. Use good judgment.
[00:22:06.790] - Steve Morreale
What do you think about training standards in the United States? Not in Connecticut. You're sitting on top of driving change. What are we going to talk about in the academy? What's the in-service going? I know as a member of the council, is it council, a commission to council the council? So as a member of the council, I'm sure that you're playing a role in that as you talk about. Well, we need more use of force, so we need more mental health training or we need whatever it is.
[00:22:32.530] - Steve Morreale
Do you understand, having traveled, how different the standards are from state to state? And do you feel that maybe it's time for some standard to be set?
[00:22:42.330] - Jim Viadero
Yeah, I think there should be. I'm kind of proud to be married council. I remember when the police council was enacted in Connecticut in the early eighties and the standard there, they said it's minimum standard for training police academies and then in-service every three years. And it's kind of progressed from there. And I think it's on the cutting edge. I think Connecticut was named number one in training their training and the effectiveness of the training. It was in some statistic.
[00:23:08.360] - Jim Viadero
I just came out about a month ago in The New York Times and we were like number two or three in every other category. And you look at some of the other states where they consistently were. And I think that's the biggest concern. There's no consistency when a lot of the after the killing of George Floyd is a lot of concern for use of force, shoots, chokeholds. And you kind of look at standards in Connecticut, like where we look at that, we are already addressing that.
[00:23:30.100] - Jim Viadero
We already have policies that dictate what a department can do, what an officer can do. So I think that is a big concern. I think it should be some consistency, but we all know it's all predicated on training is all predicated on one thing right now that is
[00:23:42.250] - Steve Morreale
Money, money. money yes.
[00:23:44.110] - Jim Viadero
Money. When we talk about training, I am a big advocate of training. I came from a training academy working at Environment. I ran an emergency services unit and I knew the value of training there and how
many times you have trained. But that's something that's always talked about now and be right now. You know, there's there's a lot of mandates that are being put upon law enforcement agencies, but they're unfunded mandates. So how do you do that?
[00:24:03.610] - Steve Morreale
Yeah, well, you know, it's interesting because some states I remember when I was a police officer in New Hampshire, one of the things that the legislature did was to create a Syntex. And so that money was for cigarets and for alcohol. There was a couple of pennies put on it and that went into police training. We just did that in Massachusetts with rental vehicles so that there is now this pot of money, although what happened was with KOVR-TV dwindled because no one was traveling what it was.
[00:24:27.520] - Steve Morreale
That's the real problem and that is a problem. And let me ask about covid. How did you negotiate covid? Clearly, a year ago or year plus that you had to make major changes and come up with policies that were non-existent. How did you sort of negotiate through that? A lot of luck. OK, we've been very honest. You know what? It was probably one of the most stressful times in my career. I mean, I'll tell you a little story about myself.
[00:24:49.990] - Jim Viadero
I was on vacation, travel to Aruba two weeks out of the year and we went we knew those travel advisories by about three or four days into the trip. We realized that everything was going to get closed down. And I was communicating with my agency via telephone conferences and what was going on in the United States. And I got a call from one of my captains that told me that two of our officers were exposed to an individual that had covid.
[00:25:15.310] - Jim Viadero
And we kind of had to make some adjustments as far as quarantining them. Where were we going to put them out of their house? Who's going to pay for the hotel room and everything? So it was kind of like a day by day experience where you had to make changes and adapt as you went forward and nobody really had any. But he was looking to somebody for an answer. One of the biggest concerns we had and I came back into the United States and I got put into quarantine myself as I was traveling, and we had day to day and phone conversations a day.
[00:25:40.830] - Jim Viadero
And we're having conversations. And I think the biggest concern for us is the police department was we didn't have the ability to work from home. Right. So we had to make some changes. First thing was
getting personal protection devices. The second thing I think was getting correct information. We were fortunate to hook up with a medical facility that had a medical director that any information that they were imparting with their emergency department and their physicians and their nurses, they would give it to us.
[00:26:05.190] - Jim Viadero
And I looked at that. Was it whatever they're doing in a medical facility is something we need to know about. And we kind of made our changes based on what we saw. I think the biggest thing was to show the officers and demonstrate to them, a, we we get it concerned for your safety. I'm not going to put you into a predicament that I wouldn't put myself into. But unfortunately, we've got to respond for calls for sure.
[00:26:26.910] - Steve Morreale
Well, I think that was the big thing. When you when you think back to that and actually, you know, we're doing some survey work to figure out, OK, what did you do and how did you change and how did you adapt? If you remember at first, because I was out of the town, just like you were, and you think, oh, my God, what's going to happen? Can I go home? How am I going to fly to have to rent a car?
[00:26:44.920] - Steve Morreale
But I think about it now. We were seeing death. We were seeing breathing apparatus and all of those kinds of things. And I think we had this fear that this is if we touch it, if we get it, we may not survive. Right. And and your officers had to minimize car stops and contact that first gut.
[00:27:01.570] - Jim Viadero
Their biggest concern because to some of the officers was them being at work and then bringing something home to your question. No question. You know, the biggest thing that we said there was, hey, look, making motor vehicle stops is not a priority right now, OK? There's no traffic out there, number one. But number two, don't make unnecessary motor vehicle stops. You have to kind of enact the policies. If you go to a car accident, this is how you do it.
[00:27:23.460] - Jim Viadero
Somebody hold licenses up to the window. Don't make unnecessary arrests. If you have to make an arrest, you can release in the field, do that and kind of reassure them that, hey, it's OK. Like I'm in our cars. We're pretty much a technology-laden department. And we had MDT in our car and it was a quick flip to provide cell phone service fee to MDD. And basically we kind of put through our Facebook accounts and do media interaction, told the public, when you call the police department, if it's a call that doesn't require a personal response, you will talk to one officer on the phone.
[00:27:53.370] - Jim Viadero
It was reporting a financial crime or some type of cyber crime or something that doesn't require a police officer to meet you in person. That's what we're going to do. We let our public know through Facebook post in media releases that if a police officer comes to your house, they're going to ask you to come out of the house. You're going to keep that social distance. So it was an educational curve and it was an educational career for our officers because they continually came back to us and said, hey, what are you going to do about this?
[00:28:18.150] - Jim Viadero
What do you do about that? When I get I'm like, hey, I'm concerned, too. My wife is in the medical profession, so she was dealing with it every day. She was bringing it home and, you know, kind of reassured everybody, we're not going to put anybody in a predicament that I want to put myself in. And, you know, we have to decide if we had any kind of indication or inclination that one of our officers was exposed, whether at home or at work.
[00:28:38.370] - Jim Viadero
We quarantine them if required, was a scheduling nightmare. Yes, quite a little bit of overtime. I would think so. Yeah. Yeah. But you know what? It kind of proved that it worked. And I think our first case in our department was around Christmas time this year. So we've navigated all the way through Christmas without a positive case. And that was kind of an exposure from a family event. We got a few officers that were exposed.
[00:28:59.610] - Jim Viadero
So I think the best way to explain it was it was day by day adapting and improvising. We weren't coming out with written directives. I know a lot of departments came out with pages and pages of written directives, you know, about policies. And I know somebody looks at it. It was basically day by day we were making our adapting to the circumstances and where we're coming out with information that lives, how we're going to do things, you know, general general orders for the day versus wide sweeping policy changes.
[00:29:27.930] - Jim Viadero
And I think we got through would be adapted. Now we're kind of turning the curve going the other way. OK, ladies, guess it's time to get back to some normalcy. Yeah, normal activity. So, yeah, it was it was an adventure. It was definitely.
[00:29:40.470] - Steve Morreale
Well, you made it through, I suppose. A number of us did. So let me let me pivot, let me switch, switch gears for you and ask a couple of things. What do you think three areas, two or three areas policing have to focus on in the coming years?
[00:29:53.700] - Jim Viadero
I think the biggest problem we have right now is recruitment and retention. Yes. I mean, I'm going to name that as number one. And the reason why I say that is number one is that talk to every police department and every chief and everybody's having the same problem. Recently hired three officers in the last maybe month or two. But the amount of the that of individuals that applied for the job pool was so small and the selection was so difficult.
[00:30:16.990] - Jim Viadero
I've never seen a competition among other agencies vying for the same. And the other thing is retention. I mean, I've got officers talking to me that maybe have ten, fifteen years on the job, you know, like, am I going to go back to my old profession? I don't know if I want to do this anymore, and the other side is once individuals hit the retirement age, there's not even a consideration right now. They're walking out the door.
[00:30:37.590] - Jim Viadero
So what we're doing is we're losing our money because we're not seeing a lot of a big pool of candidates. And then you're losing your your top end officers who are seasoned veteran officers that have a lot to contribute walking out the door. I think the second thing is training in my eyes. There's a there's a lot of mandates that are being put forward on officers and they can't lose sight of where we're going. But I think at some point issue, people are talking about defunding law enforcement.
[00:31:02.460] – Jim ViaderoSpeaker 3
I think this is a time for funding law enforcement. I understand the concept of defunding or taking money, putting it someplace else for other services that need to be provided. But don't lose sight of, hey, right now, you need your best trained, best-educated officers with the most current resources that you can give them so we can prevent things from happening that we've seen happening in the past. Number three, I really have to think about that a little bit, but I think what I like to see, the biggest thing I think confronting law enforcement is I think some of the rhetoric has to change a little bit about what law enforcement does.
[00:31:34.800] - Jim Viadero
I think it was too easy to put all the faults of society on law enforcement. And I had the opportunity. Listen to a press conference about two weeks ago, Dermot Shea from New York City Police Commissioner.
Yes, his officers got struck by a drunk driver directing traffic. out in Queens. Person ran the individual over. And at the press conference, Dermot Shea basically said, hey, we get it. We understand. We want to we want to serve.
[00:31:57.750] - Jim Viadero
And we know there's problems that we got to fix. But some of the damaging rhetoric towards law enforcement has to get toned down a little bit. And I think that's a concern. That's a concern. If you got a problem, fix it. It's too easy, I think, to get out there and talk about it and not try to not try to fix it. Being involved with the post council is not just the Law Enforcement Council, its members from the community, academia are there people from different social services agencies and all sitting at the same table to make changes to some law enforcement policies and training and procedures.
[00:32:25.970] - Jim Viadero
So I think it's easy to talk about investing and trying to fix it, dismantling it.
[00:32:31.560] - Steve Morreale
Well, you were saying bring us solutions. Yeah, help us identify the problems, but bring us solutions along the way.
[00:32:37.090] - Jim Viadero
Yeah. You know, like, I just talk, let me digress, talk about mental health. And everybody's talking about a police officers responding to mental health calls. Baliles, we don't want to go to those calls. We're not equipped to handle this. But we all know why it. When funding was cut for mental health services in states across the United States, we're debt burden fall nine one one who goes to law enforcement. So I think we get it.
[00:33:00.510] - Jim Viadero
We're all about hiring social service agencies and social workers and clinicians to go out to those types of calls. I don't think it belongs in the lap of law enforcement because you're putting a law enforcement officer into a position where somebody needs treatment or the last thing they need to see is a person out there with a gun. So I think there's a lot of things that need to be changed. I think people that have to understand that a lot of it has to do with dollars and cents budgets and allocating funding for where should go.
[00:33:26.610] - Steve Morreale
So let's wind down and I want to ask a question. What's on your personal to do list?
[00:33:30.990] - Jim Viadero
My personal to do list. As far as the police chief.
[00:33:33.930] - Steve Morreale
[00:33:34.770] - Jim Viadero
Personal. I got personal. Yeah. My personal to do list is I enjoy what I do on a daily basis. I still I'm enthusiastic when I get up in the morning, some mornings, not all the mornings, but I still enjoy coming to work, meeting my officers, meet with the community, interact. But this gets to the point where thirty six years is time to move on to something else.
[00:33:54.420] - Jim Viadero
I'm looking at retirement in the very, very, very near future. But what I would like to do is continue teaching at a college level, criminal justice and some other programs. Dear to me, I see there's a value that I've got experiences that I love to share. I just spent a lot more time at home and out on a boat someplace, fishing and traveling a little bit.
[00:34:13.260] - Steve Morreale
Where will you travel, given a choice? Where would you travel?
[00:34:15.930] - Jim Viadero
You know what? I'd like to go to Europe. I've been to Europe a couple times. I'd like to see a little bit more of it. I really didn't have the opportunity to do that. I go to the islands almost every year, Caribbean. So I like to see a little bit more expensive time in Europe and actually see a little bit more of the United States into the West Coast and down south.
[00:34:33.390] - Jim Viadero
I'd like to just see a little bit more of the internal part of the United States.
[00:34:36.570] – Steve Morreale
Well, I think it's hard for us to view what it would be like to travel without something gnawing and pulling us back to the organization that we're responsible for. Wouldn't that be a relief?
[00:34:47.700] - Jim Viadero
You know what? And that's that's the funny thing. I don't know what that's going to be like. Yeah. I don't know if that's going to be like. I tell you a funny story. I was in Aruba every year for two years and I was in Bridgeport, so I had a phone right there. You're answering text. You're answering emails. And I had somebody call me about something and I answered, I'm like, hey, what's that noise?
[00:35:04.980] - Jim Viadero
What? I answered phone in Aruba. You answered your phone down in Aruba. It's like, yeah, got the international service right. You never cleared away. You kind of never really disconnect. So I have to say, I don't know if I'm going to I'm going to look forward to it, but I also know there's going to be a little part of me that's going to miss it. Yeah.
[00:35:19.620] - Steve Morreale
Oh, I know that all too well. I know that all too well. Well, listen, thank you, Jim. We've been talking to Chief Jim Viadero, who was the chief in Newtown, Connecticut. And I want to thank you. For being here and giving us your insight. Words of wisdom, one set of words of wisdom from you, especially for people who are interested in coming into the job, why now?
[00:35:38.540] - Jim Viadero
Why bother, you know, words of wisdom? I would think my final word of wisdom is now is to know a lot of people are out there dissuading people from going to law enforcement. Now is the time. You know what? If you're going to change something, you have to change it from the inside. So if you're not happy with the way things are going, get in, participate, roll up your sleeves and change it from the inside.
[00:35:58.010] - Jim Viadero
I tell everybody I've got a brother and I tell him I wouldn't trade places with you for anything in the world. I sent this job here, gave me experiences, friendships, education and ability to really impact individuals lives that I don't see in other people's careers. Best job in the world still is. Regardless of what's going on in the outside, it's still the best job in the world. You've got to be able to go in there and make the changes that need to be made.
[00:36:24.200] - Steve Morreale
Well, we always say it's a front row seat to the to the greatest show and it is the greatest show on Earth. Yeah, it is. It is. All right. Thank you, Jim. Stand by, everybody. We're going to say goodbye and thank you for listening.
[00:36:36.530] - Jim Viadero
[00:36:36.530] - Steve Morreale
One of the things I'd like to tell the audience is to thank you. Thank you from Ireland. Thank you from Canada. Thank you. From New Zealand and Australia.
[00:36:44.510] - Steve Morreale
Thank you from the UK. Thanks for listening. Thanks for helping us grow. We really appreciate it. As I said, this is Steve Morreale. You're listening to The CopDoc Podcast. Hi, everybody. A few things before you leave. Thanks for listening. I'm so gratified to see the downloads rising in the last few months, not only from the U.S., but from across the globe. It's surprising and humbling to find students, colleagues and practitioners listening.
[00:37:05.930] - Steve Morreale
We have a growing number of listeners in Canada, Ireland, England, Northern Ireland, Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Colombia. We appreciate your time and energy and welcome feedback.
Please feel free to reach out to me by email at The CopDoc Podcast at Gmail dot com. That's Cop Doc Dot podcast at Gmail dot com. Check out our website at The CopDoc Podcast dot com. Please take the time to share our podcast with your friend if you find value in the discussions.
[00:37:33.410] - Steve Morreale
We've had so many amazing guests and more to come who have shared their wisdom, their thoughts, their viewpoints and their innovative ideas.
[00:37:40.490] - Steve Morreale
Most importantly, a huge thank you to those of you who show up for work in policing every day, not knowing the kinds of calls that you'll be sent on or the kinds of situations you'll find yourself in, you risk your lives for people, many of whom you don't know. And for that, we owe you a debt of gratitude.
[00:37:56.300] - Steve Morreale
A big thanks. I hope you stay safe, healthy and look forward to hearing from you and hope you'll continue to listen to upcoming episodes of The CopDoc Podcast. Thanks very much.
[00:38:08.070] - Outro
First, thanks for listening to The CopDoc Podcast with Dr. Steve Morreale. Steve is a retired law enforcement practitioner and manager turned academic and scholar from Worcester State University. Please tune into The CopDoc Podcast for regular episodes of interviews with thought leaders in policing.