Friday, January 20, 2017

Windham Police Department pursues organizational restructuring By Stephen Signor

On April 20th, 2015, Kevin Schofield became chief of the Windham Police Department. Since then it has been established that there is a more effective way to run his department. Last Tuesday, at the town council meeting, Schofield and Lieutenant James Boudreau presented a proposal for departmental restructuring that would potentially eliminate the need for overtime, increase efficiency and provide an improved, safer environment for patrol officers; all with little or no cost to the town.

To accomplish this, a Strengths, Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis of the department was developed. “Shortly after becoming chief, I began assessing the police department from several different aspects, to include the organizational rank structure. During my first couple of months, I met with people meeting one-on-one with many of the staff to go over what areas they can improve, what new projects/functions they should do, what are their strengths and what current functions can they do away with,” Schofield explained.

The current administrative structure of the chief and the lieutenant was developed in 1982. “I’m not saying it’s not valid but the world has changed in 35 years; and most certainly the Windham Police Department,” acknowledged Schofield.

So what does it take to run a police department?  “In my ten years of managerial experience in three different communities, it changes significantly. Those changes revolve around updating mandated policy, mandated training, mandated regulatory issues and grant preparation for acquiring the tools necessary to perform their duties. These take a lot of man hours,” Schofield said.

To this end, an internal methodology committee was born, to get more detailed feedback. “The committee I formed consist of Lieutenant Boudreau, Sergeant David Bonneau, Detective Paul Cox and Officer Jason Burke and charged to render feedback through the use of a survey so that we all have a buy-in to put input into the department,” said Schofield. facets of the organization were represented. “We had a good cross section of the department which then developed a survey to distribute to the rest of the staff,” continued Schofield. This committee was then charged with reviewing, making recommendations, and then generating a report.
The end result was the recommendation to create a two-assistant-to-deputy chief structure, where one person would be in charge of patrol operations and the other would support investigations and support services. “With this recommendation is the elimination of our currently hourly administrative sergeant position,” said Schofield.

The span of control and areas of responsibility of the administrative sergeant position is deemed as far too broad. “Currently the administrative sergeant supervises six various positions and also performs several administrative functions including but not limited to scheduling, vehicle inventory and maintenance as well as property procurement,” explained Schofield.

The second facet of the proposal was to create a detective sergeant position that would maintain a level of investigative responsibilities. This position would also perform first line supervision such as case management review and also functioning as department court liaison officer.

“The advantages of doing this (is) that it would clearly define administrative roles as they pertain to each division of the department, creates a defined chain of command, helps alleviate (the) amount of current paperwork, creates more managerial capacity within the department and opens opportunities for nationally recognized opportunities like the FBI and NA (National Academy),” said Schofield.

“What’s real important to me, and a goal I hope to achieve is create more managerial opportunities in the department. Someday when I decide to hang it up for good, nothing would satisfy me more than to have one of the officers in this room to be able to sit at my desk,” concluded Schofield.

Little time was wasted in digesting this proposal. Without hesitation, council chair Donna Chapman said, “I think it looks like we should be putting this into the upcoming budget. I support this because we’ve grown as a community and the police department hasn’t grown to keep up with that.”

Like any restructuring, it is difficult to forecast what the budgetary implications would be. To this end, councilman Tim Nangle raised the question of the potential financial obligation to the town.“Based on prior experience and the fact this change does not add a sergeant position, I would anticipate the impact on the budget to be negligible in either direction,” responded Schofield.  To further reiterate, “My intent is to utilize internal personnel. As far as an added cost, my proposal would eliminate the sergeant position. Somebody would be promoted which would require an increase in base salary, but with the potential loss of need for overtime, that amount would be decreased or eliminated altogether,” continued Schofield.

It was agreed by all council members, that Chief Schofield put together a worst case scenario of potential financial obligations that the town may need to absorb. A February 7th meeting was tentatively scheduled for further discussion and to review information requested by the council that could be presented to the finance committee.
“Our goal tonight was simply to share these ideas with you to give you the opportunity to ask questions, not to look for any conclusions or consensus. It may take more time for people to process this. The plan at this point would be to do what we did with the budget for last year (which) is to use the strategic plan as a starting point,” concluded town manager Tony Plante.

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