Removing a layer
Cheney Police Department changes should create greater efficiency, flexibility
If all goes according to plan, Cheney residents should see no difference in the re-organized structure of its Police Department – not even discolored areas on uniform sleeves where stripes used to be.
After a review and discussions with the Police Guild, Police Chief John Hensley recommended that City Council approve an ordinance changing the department structure by removing the rank of corporal, replacing it with Police Officer, and adjust the salary structure accordingly. The council unanimously agreed to the ordinance at their May 14 meeting, holding all three readings and passage at once, a rather unusual but not uncommon procedure.
Unless it’s an emergency, ordinance readings normally take place at separate council meetings in order to allow citizen input and discussion, with the first reading taking place at one meeting and the final two at the following two meetings or even both in one night. Cheney human resources manager Mark Schuller said there wasn’t a real need to hold all three at one meeting, but the proposed changes weren’t any that would likely impact residents physically or financially. The changes are of internal structure.
“We just wanted to move this along as quickly as possible to implement the changes,” Schuller said.
Hensley said those changes are products of his review of the department since his arrival in December 2011. Typically the corporal position is something found in larger departments in jurisdictions like the city of Spokane, Spokane County and one of Hensley’s former employers, the city of Mesa in California.
It was a holdover from the term of former Police Chief Jeff Sale, who came to Cheney with Washington State Patrol experience, another agency with corporals. In larger agencies corporals act as supervisors, reporting up the chain to sergeants and so on. In an agency Cheney’s size they weren’t really supervising anyone.
“When we analyzed it, they weren’t doing anything different than the officers,” Schuller said.
Hensley said the idea behind the rank of corporal was to create a position to reward longevity and experience.
“But we need to reward technical experience too,” he said. “To me, it was an unnecessary layer in the organization.”
Hensley said after review he discussed possible reorganization with Cmdr. Rick Campbell and some of the officers in the Police Guild. After more discussions with Schuller and the Guild, Hensley eventually presented it to Mayor Tom Trulove who endorsed the changes.
Guild vice president Officer Nate Conley said they brought the proposal before members, who voted 10-0 in favor of the changes with two abstentions.
“It was very simple once we met on it,” Conley said. “It was very reasonable to everyone involved.”
The restructure creates a force that instead of five officers and nine supervisors has exactly the opposite made up of nine police officers, three sergeants, a commander and chief. Officers can now report direct to sergeants, helping speed up decision making Hensley said, and the changes also create greater flexibility in shift assignments.
Conley said there are now six fairly uniform salary steps for police officers, ranging from $4,081 a month to $5,455. The changes allow the department to make adjustments for lateral entry officers hired by the department, but who might still need to go through the Washington State Police Academy, enabling the city to compensate them appropriately for current experience.
“Other cities have a range in place and now we do,” Hensley said. “It also helps with collective bargaining because now we can compare ourselves with other departments on an even basis.”
Hensley added that the department didn’t get rid of anybody. The only change will be that instead of two stripes, some officers will eventually wear one.
“The stripes stay though until the uniforms are replaced,” Hensley said.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.