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Long Beach Police chief to ask for public input on police performance

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Long Beach Police Commissioner Ron Walsh has disclosed that he plans to initiate a first-of-its-kind-on-Long-Island program that will ask anyone who has any type of contact with a city police officer to offer feedback on the experience.

The president of the Police Benevolent Association, Brian Wells, said he opposed the plan, calling it “naïve.”

Walsh, a veteran of the Nassau County Police Department who left his position as chief of support in February to head the Long Beach department, said he believed that the program, called CueHit, was necessary at a time when many communities are developing police-reform programs and officers in some communities have come under attack.

“This has never been done before” on Long Island, Walsh said in an interview on Monday. “The technology was not available. We can now seek information from what I call our customers.”

“Anyone who has any interaction with a Long Beach police officer will receive a text message asking how satisfied or unsatisfied they were with the officer’s performance,” he said.

“In today’s world, when law enforcement is under attack, it’s important for officers to know that the public supports them,” Walsh said. “I anticipate that this will be the result of the program.”

The information that is collected, he explained, will be used to help the department improve its performance.

The commissioner informed the staff about his plan last Friday.

“I have been working very diligently to help increase the positive profile of the LBPD with our community and in finding ways to highlight our great work!” Walsh wrote in a letter to officers. “It is with this in mind that in the coming weeks Long Beach PD will be the first department on Long Island and one of the first 10 in NY State to roll out a new solution called CueHit,” which he described as “an automated community engagement and connection platform.”

Once the program begins in a few weeks, he wrote, “we will be able to send out an automatic text messages to citizens, victims, witnesses and more about case updates when we choose. The site can add information about services or referrals, quickly create rules for automated communications regarding special events and gather feedback from citizens we’ve recently interacted with and more.”

“CueHit was created for law enforcement with the knowledge that police officers do an incredible job serving the community and citizens are very satisfied with the service they receive,” Walsh wrote.

James Mulvaney, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan who lives in Long Beach, said that feedback from the public is a good thing. But, he added, the program may not provide a full picture. There will be more feedback on more-active officers than from less-active ones.

“Is this the only way” to get feedback? Mulvaney asked. “It shouldn’t be.”

Wells, the PBA president, said, “It’s a very naïve idea. Given the kind of environment in which we work, you’re basically soliciting complaints from people.” Most reactions, he said, would be positive, but some would not be.

“Some people don’t like the answers we give them,” Wells said. “Some things are civil cases, some are landlord-tenant disputes. People aren’t always happy with the answers they get.

“People have a lot of ways to make complaints,” he said. “They can call, email. But at least they had to take the first step.”

Publicly, at least, Walsh has had an uneven relationship with the Long Beach PBA, which represents the majority of the department’s 66 officers. In April, the association recorded a no-confidence vote in his leadership, criticizing his “geographic policing model,” which calls for assigning officers to posts on a longer-term basis and seeing to it that they become more involved in the community they patrol.

Wells said at the time that Walsh did not seem to respect the Long Beach department. But Walsh defended his community-policing plan, and said he had high regard for the city police.

The unionized officers have been working without a contract for several years.