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Mville police to tweak command structure

MARYSVILLE In order to face the growth in a city that could soon double in size, new Marysville Police Chief Rick Smith is proposing several new changes to the police department structure, including a new command layer that would increase accountability for officer conduct and training.
Several new positions are proposed for the department, including new ranks of lieutenant for one new position and a vacant position that until now has been filled by a commander, the rank just below the chief.
The new lieutenant will be in charge of the new Professional Standards Unit and will handle all internal affairs complaints, including reviewing procedures including use of force and pursuits. The officer will review training and liability concerns and will report directly to the chief.
Thats pretty significant, Smith told the Marysville City Council on July 16.
Having one person handling those issues will allow the department to spot trends and would provide an early warning system to identify officers who might have issues or need more training.
Other positions proposed for the department include a new training unit composed of a sergeant and an officer. Currently several officers conduct recruiting and background checks for potential officers and Smith said he wants to consolidate those functions in one office. Splitting those tasks among several officers has resulted in a lack of accountability between commanders and sergeants, and reduced the latters ability to supervise the line officers on the job day to day.
Sergeants are very busy doing everything, Smith said. All of that pulled them away from their primary duties, which is to govern whats happening on the street.
The new training unit, with a sergeant and an officer, will consolidate training, recruiting, placement in the state law enforcement academy, and conduct background checks for prospective hires. The unit will also supervise the field training officers new officers are paired with for the first three-and-a-half months after graduating from the law enforcement academy. The new unit will gather more information to let the department evaluate training efforts, as well as develop a training program for supervisors.
Right now training is all over the place, Smith said.
If the unit gets up to speed the department could host training for other agencies, resulting in a potential revenue stream, although that is much further down the road. A crucial need is to deal promptly with background checks and recruiting.
City chief administrative officer Mary Swenson said department brass is so busy the city hasnt had a presence at many recruiting fairs, meaning Marysville may have missed out on many potential officers in a highly competitive market. Newly-minted police officers are earning almost $55,000 a year in some departments like Seattle.
Since Smith started as chief in March his department has missed two recruiting events, and barely made another one, he lamented.
So weve missed some local people out there that we could have had, Smith told the council. We need to be up to speed, we need to be out there.
For the past eight years the department has had a trio of co-equal commanders, just below the chief, a set up that the rank and file hated. Smith proposes to keep the two positions now filled and turn the other vacant slot into an operations lieutenant position, who will effectively function as a watch commander during the day, freeing the other administrators to do their jobs.
Jim Maples is president of the Marysville Police Officers Association and he said the proposed changes are long overdue. A departmental reorganization was one of the main things the union wanted with a new chief coming in, because many officers were chafing for new opportunities for promotion or for different and more challenging assignments. The new slots will provide some of those opportunities and will allow for more expertise for high-liability areas that the new command positions will target. Its been eight years since any changes were made and after a while officers might start to look at other departments with more opportunities for advancement and professional development, Maples warned. Smith has addressed those concerns with the first major revamp in almost a decade, he added.
Thats a long time in an organization, Maples said. I believe the majority of the membership if not all of the membership, is somewhat excited about it.
Smith also proposed a crime analyst manager, with another similar employee to follow in 2008, and told the council they need to examine other support functions such as a confidential secretary / administrative assistant.
Since sergeants got a pay bump at the beginning of the month, due to their negotiated labor contract, they are edging their nominal bosses, the commanders, in take home pay. Smith wants to tweak the commanders salaries to keep them competitive and to make room on the city pay grid for the two new lieutenants. He proposes to pay the two top leaders $112,560 per year, and the lieutenants $107,208. Many line officers and sergeants made more than $100,000 with overtime as recently as 2005, while the trio of commanders topped out at just under $87,000 in flat salary.
One sergeant earned $109,592, just $133 less than police chief bob Carden did. Smiths contract pays him $127,000 per year.
In a report to the council Smith wrote that the confidential secretary position should be filled immediately, while the professional standards lieutenant billet should be filled after October, with the training sergeant and officer by September or October of this fall.
As the city prepares for an eventual doubling to 70,000 people within the next ten years, the police department will be the most heavily impacted. Swenson said the department is down about four officers, mostly due to cops out on maternity leave and injuries, but hiring has picked up recently; especially lateral transfers of officers from other departments.
Thats a boost because a green recruit goes through a six-month academy, then another 14-week probationary training period, although they are patrolling the streets then. During last year the city hiring went slack due to the uncertainty of not having a permanent chief after Carden left for a job in California. Now a new contract and chief have ignited interest in Marysville, and the big box retailers have provided the money to hire more cops.
Weve seen a huge upswing in laterals, Swenson said. They plug in immediately. That saves a huge amount of money.
The city needs to have about six officers on the roads per shift, and now has four, Swenson added.

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