The Statesboro Police Department is reorganizing its patrol division, eliminating two vacant lieutenant positions to instead hire three additional patrol officers and a part-time secretary.
This change will give the department a net gain of one certified officer, plus the secretarial position, and will still cost $7,100 less this year than filling the lieutenant jobs would have, Public Safety Director Wendell Turner recently told City Council.
“We’ve had these two patrol lieutenants’ positions posted within the organization, as per policy, and we had no takers,” Turner said. “That’s the first time that I know of in my 21- or 22-year history in the agency that we’ve had no takers for a patrol lieutenant position.”
This led to a brief discussion of “pay compression” at the Feb. 17 council meeting. Pay compression occurs when employees who have received raises for years on the job would gain little from a promotion.
This had been a topic of discussion among the council, department heads and then-City Manager Frank Parker last spring, before the council gave city employees a 2.5 percent raise as part of the current budget.
But after talk in 2014 about the expense of a professional study of the city’s salary schedule, no study was ordered and no adjustments were made for differences between pay grades.
Speaking to the council last month, Turner said he had talked to two SPD sergeants who did not want promotions to lieutenant. From sergeant to lieutenant is the point where these officers would transition from an hourly wage to a straight salary.
“Over the years I believe the pay compression has gotten much worse, and it’s starting to cause some of these things,” Turner said.
However, he presented the restructuring as a positive move for using the available resources. One of the lieutenant vacancies was created when then-Lt. Charles Forney, whose 18 years in law enforcement have all been with the Statesboro police, was promoted to captain last fall after Capt. Tom Woodrum’s departure.
Capt. Forney, who heads the patrol bureau, proposed the reorganization. The Police Department then presented the plan to Turner, who reviewed it with the city financial director.
In the old organizational structure, the captain supervised four lieutenants, each of whom headed one of the four shifts. Command passed from each lieutenant down through a sergeant and corporal to several officers on the shift.
Now, there will be just two lieutenants, each over two shifts, but on duty for only half of each shift.
‘Doing more with less’
With these changes, the department will have 71 sworn officers and a total of 86 employees, according to Turner. But he referred to the move as reducing the assessed need from 11 to 10 officers in the patrol bureau.
“I just hand it to the guys. Doing more with less and trying to utilize the resources we have is really where we are,” Turner said.
He credited the department with Statesboro’s 10.5 percent reduction in reported crimes last year and a 17.5 percent reduction since 2009, calling it “phenomenal work.”
“I would just caution council, I feel like we’re getting a little dangerous in our spending control. …,” Turner added. “I really think we need to look at pay for everybody in the city.”
Some City Council members commented on the idea of pay compression and asked questions, but the council unanimously approved the patrol bureau’s restructuring.
“If you’re doing away with lieutenant positions, maybe we need to look at the pay structure of lieutenants,” Councilman John Riggs said. “From what I’m seeing here, it looks like we’re paying sergeants too much or lieutenants too little, or maybe a little of both.”
He and Councilman Will Britt asked the city staff for more information. The council has scheduled its annual budgeting retreat, at City Hall, for April 2, beginning at 9 a.m.
The part-time secretary, who will be scheduled to work 29 hours a week, was labeled a “community relations secretary” in the organizational chart. This secretary will work with the department’s public information officer, Cpl. Justin Samples, but will also assist another staff member working toward first-time Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA, accreditation for the department, Samples explained in a phone interview Friday.
Approached after the February meeting, Forney confirmed that the reorganization was his idea.
“I think with the pay compression issues and some of the funding issues that we’re facing, it’s going to be perfect for what we need,” Forney said. “It’s like the director said, we’re doing more with less.”
This past week, in a separate personnel move, the department announced that Patrol Sgt. Dena Colson has been chosen to fill the new post of support services bureau commander. The bureau encompasses communications, records, quartermaster, special events, crime analysis and other areas, the Friday news release said.
Created in last year’s budget process, the support services post is separate from the patrol bureau restructuring. However, Turner told City Council that Colson will be available to provide backup to the patrol bureau when needed.
The department also announced that Cpl. Jake Saxon has been promoted to patrol sergeant.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.