Raleigh, N.C. — Raleigh Police Chief Harry Dolan is once again defending himself against criticism from a local police union that says a recent trip for officers was a waste of public tax dollars and police department resources.
Two dozen police lieutenants took a three-day trip to Civil War battlefields in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania in June as part of the Raleigh Police Department's leadership and management training program.
"The majority of people who went on this training found it very fulfilling, found it good to work with their peers (who) are going to lead this department in the near future," Dolan said.
Teamsters Local 391, which represents the police interest group Raleigh Police Protective Association, says the trip had no relevance to the officers' jobs.
According to the police department, its purpose was for the lieutenants to learn how political and military leaders made decisions under pressure and to study how leaders emerged during the war.
Days were 12 hours long with no downtime, and the officers used their rooms only to sleep.
"The military has been a great, great source of leadership and technology for us. So, to look at how that arena operates, I think, is beneficial," Dolan said.
Chip Roth, a spokesman for Teamsters, disagrees. He calls the trip nothing more than a history lesson that has "no relevance to our everyday world."
"The idea that this type of trip could translate into something practical and meaningful for this department is beyond a stretch. It simply doesn't make sense," he said.
"Leadership is important for the Raleigh Police Department, but what this demonstrates is the lack of leadership of the chief himself, because he is spending resources – tax dollars – at a time when the city budget is very tight, when the police department budget itself is very tight," Roth added.
It's still not exactly clear how much the trip ended up costing. The police department says the preliminary cost was $7,700 for housing and food.
But the cost of the four-week leadership program, Dolan says, pales in comparison to the cost of a potential lawsuit.
Since the program started in 2009, 276 police employees have completed the program, including 145 sergeants and 114 officers and detectives.
"It's vitally important that we provide this training to our officers," Dolan said. "I would say, overall, the leadership development program has been exceptionally successful."
For example, he points out that, of police officers' 20,000 arrests last year, the department received only nine complaints about "use of force" and 42 citizen complaints.
"That's absolutely incredible," Dolan said. "That's leadership from the front. That's a disciplined, well-trained police department."
This isn't the first time that the Teamsters has criticized Dolan for his leadership.
This month, more than 200 police officers represented by the union filed grievances with the city over Dolan's new employee performance evaluation system.
The group has also blasted him for mismanagement, in part, for how he handled an internal police probe of sexual misconduct allegations that led to at least one police officer being fired.