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Planning a new direction
City Manager Shane Haynes offers vision for future of police, fire
W Shane Haynes
Shane Haynes

      With the recent restructuring of Statesboro's police and fire departments and the termination of five long-term city employees, City Manager Shane Haynes sat down this week to discuss the future direction of the city.
      During a lengthy interview Thursday, Haynes discussed streamlining city departments, the future of public safety and the move toward a community policing model. He started by saying no other city positions would be eliminated before June 30 - the end of the city's fiscal year 2010.
      "I don't anticipate any additional layoffs prior to the end of the fiscal year," Haynes said. "And we're hoping not to eliminate any positions going into FY 2011 beyond the ones that have already been eliminated."
      If any positions come vacant, Haynes said the city likely would not fill those jobs "unless they are absolutely critical to operations" of the city.
      Though the city has consolidated the management for fire and police into one public safety director, Haynes said, "We don't have any imminent plans to consolidate other departments."
       Hayes said after former Public Works Director Bobby Colson retired, instead of hiring a new director, public works was placed under the engineering department led by City Engineer Robert Cheshire. Senior Assistant City Engineer Jason Boyles now heads public works and answers to Cheshire, while continuing to perform some of his engineering duties.
      The new structure is working well for both engineering and public works, according to Haynes, because engineering can design projects and then task public works personnel to get the physical work completed, resulting in better communication and more efficient execution of the work.

      Haynes said in the wake of the elimination of the police and fire chief positions, along with two fire captains and a police lieutenant, city department heads continue to look at ways to increase efficiency and reduce workload overlap within their departments. In addition, Haynes said there may be some opportunities to work with the county on functional-type consolidations, though he said he "has had no substitutive discussions" with Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch on the matter and that any future moves would be "down the road a bit."
      In particular, Haynes mentioned the idea of consolidating the vehicle repair and equipment maintenance shops that the city and county each operate. He said bulk purchasing discounts on supplies and work efficiencies could be realized by such a consolidation.
      "Anywhere we can become more efficient we're going to try to do that if it makes sense," Haynes said.
Human Resources Director Jeff Grant was charged by Haynes to look at each city position - department by department - to make sure they have the "right people in the right places" and to make sure there is do duplication of job duties. Haynes said this idea is what prompted the city council to look at departmental consolidation in the first place.
      "I think council, looking at the lay of the land, started to feel like as an organization - not just those two departments but city wide - maybe we had grown out too much," Haynes said. "Maybe the branches of our tree had gone too horizontal and we had a lot of people in some areas seemingly doing the same type tasks - managing the same work-related items or areas."
      Haynes said the position by position review by Grant would be a long-term, on-going process.

‘A better way'
       Since the announcement of the restructuring of the police and fire departments under a public safety director, council members said they received calls from citizens concerned about maintaining the same level of service and safety in the new structure. Haynes said the restructuring was a good way to maintain the level of service, especially when the departments are dealing with limited resources.
       Haynes said new Public Safety Director Wendell Turner not only would guide the budget of both departments, but also would guide the over-arching philosophy of both as he strives to make police and fire work closer together.
      "One of the goals in trying to have them work closely together is that hopefully both departments can see the value in the other and what the other brings as a firefighter or police officer to the table," Haynes said. "I know they respect each other - there's no question about that - but getting them to work closer together as a department was a goal of ours."
      Haynes said he hopes firefighters and police officers will be interested in being cross-trained in order to help out in an emergency situation or to help deal with overtime and staffing issues. He also said some of the other Georgia city public safety departments the council studied have public safety officers that received full training as both firefighters and police officers. Haynes, however, doesn't see the city moving in that direction for the foreseeable future.
       Turner was selected as public safety director, Haynes said, because he simply stood out. His FBI training, other police training and his master's degree in public administration kept bringing his name to the top of the list.
      "It set him apart and elevated him. I think with the mayor and council, Wendell's name would continually come up," Haynes said. "It was just a natural fit."
      Haynes also said Turner's willingness to obtain his firefighter certification and his eagerness to accept the challenges of creating a new public safety department impressed both the council and him.
      "I was very comfortable with his approach, his ideas when I talked with him about what he would envision for both departments and the department as a whole for public safety. I was impressed with his ideas that he was already formulating on his own in his role with the police department. I was impressed by his respect and his vision and his desire to work with the fire department. And to gain that experience - because he'll need to earn the respect of those firefighters."
      Turner faces a number of challenges, including dealing with public perception as the citizens get used to a different structure within the city's public safety.
      "I give him credit for this, too. One of the first things he said to me was, ‘If it is at all possible I'd like to move (my office) because I don't want the fire department to think that if I stay over at the SPD building that I'm going to favor them.' And I respect that too."
      For now, Haynes said Turner's office would be in a portion of the new building recently purchased by the Downtown Statesboro Development Authority.

Community policing
      As the city moves forward with the new public safety structure, Haynes said he would work with Turner to move the philosophy of the police department toward a community policing model. In a nutshell, he said, "It's an attempt to be as all-compassing on a call as possible and working that call from start to finish."
       Haynes said community policing is a more intensive approach to handling calls - not just processing calls and moving to the next case, but taking the extra time necessary on a call to ensure the citizen feels they were listened to adequately. In addition, the officers would take the time to refer victims to the appropriate resources after a call.
      "That's a critical part of this process, too. That's something that's going to take time," Haynes said. "It's a total mindset and approach to policing that will take a commitment by the city to fund and have the resources available for our department to make the move to be fully integrated as a community policing initiative.
      "You're willing to let that officer to commit that time," Haynes said.
      Haynes said many citizen complaints he receives are that people feel the officers don't have enough time to spend with them listening to their full complaint, which is one reason for the move toward community policing. He also said the community policing model would help "soften" the police approach, which would help improve the perception of the police department for both citizens and students at Georgia Southern.
      "As it relates to the college - I think the college students' perception is that we're just trying to take money from them. We're trying to treat them as cattle. We want them here to spend their money in our stores and if they speed or drink underage, we're going to fine them, thrown them in jail and collect dollars from them. That is not the perception that we want to have."
      Haynes said that though officers are charged with enforcing the law, as a father of three, he wants the city and public safety division to have a friendly and respectful relationship with the university and the students. Haynes said by and large he thinks the city's public safety employees do an exceptional job working with the citizens, but he said he's heard stories from parents and citizens that lead him to believe certain improvements can be made to not only change the public's perception but to also provide a better service to the community.
      "Community (policing) is going to be a long-term goal," Haynes said. "It's not something that will happen overnight."
      Compared to other cities, Haynes said the amount of revenue the city receives from ticketing is fairly similar to Georgia cities of similar size when looking at factors like the size of the city, the roads and routes in town, plus factoring in the age and driving experience of college students.

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