Can anyone who knows anything about the Schenectady Police Department be surprised by the utter failure of the $42,000 “wellness” coach hired by the city 18 months ago to make any headway with the rank and file? What a complete waste of taxpayer dollars that little experiment proved to be. But even given the cops’ unwillingness to participate, the results needn’t have been so dismal.
The cops’ lack of cooperation was predictable, if not justifiable. They were apparently concerned about details of their health records being leaked to their bosses — even though doing so would have been against the law. They’re also Schenectady cops — notorious for calling in sick, goofing off on the job, and not caring what the public thinks. So why would they want to do anything — even getting healthier — that meant having to show up for work more often?
Administrators — including Mark Chaires, who pitched the plan to the city council before he was made chief — should have worked harder to get the rank and file to give the coach a few minutes of their precious time. The program was not only for the department’s benefit — to reduce absenteeism and medical claims caused by legitimate illness — but for the officers’ as well.
Failing that, other city officials could have gotten at least something for the city’s investment by dispatching the wellness coach to other departments. While absenteeism is surely most severe in the police department, it’s not to say that workers in other departments don’t have problems related to unhealthy lifestyles or failure to get enough exercise — problems that the fitness coach could have addressed.
Before the council entered into the contract in June 2008, we suggested seeking some kind of performance guarantee from the company so that if cops’ attendance records and insurance experience didn’t improve, the city could get its money back. That wasn’t done, and now the council has virtually nothing to show for its $42,000 flyer.