From public comments, work session discussions and feedback from city staff, the Dickinson City Commission approved a motion to restructure administration within the police department by eliminating the second captain position and adding two more lieutenants.
City Administrator Brian Winningham presented the motion to the commission during its regular scheduled meeting Tuesday, June 1, at City Hall, which would impact the 2021 budget by $28,000. Consequently, the administrative structure within the Dickinson Police Department would consist of a police chief, captain and three lieutenants.
“If you look at what’s currently happening throughout the country and other municipalities, the city of Dickinson is very progressive at keeping our structure within our police department that best supports both not only our crime rate, but also the citizens of Dickinson,” Winningham noted. “This would also — once we put those lieutenants in place — give that strategic look for our department. It would also facilitate better decision making for our officers that have to face what they face day to day on the ground.”
Commissioner John Odermann motioned to approve the restructuring of the police department administration, followed by a second from Commissioner Nicole Wolla. In a roll-call vote, the motion was unanimously approved 4-0.
Though eliminating the second captain position alleviates some of the city’s budget, it does not cover the cost of two lieutenants, Winningham noted. However, Winningham said that the cost of the two midlevel management positions was already in the budget for this year.
“I think we should always consider whether top-level administrative positions are too much. And we should consider jobs that are actually either working on a problem (or) closer to the problem. That's most of our city workers,” Winningham said. “And so, (we) try to always look at reducing administrative costs.”
Rather than cutting positions within the police department, Winningham said that the city currently does not have enough sworn officers.
“If you look at the data and you look at the population for the city of Dickinson, we are currently understaffed per capita for our city, for our police force. We would (need) about 51 sworn officers in the city of Dickinson, and we have 43 sworn officers. So what the restructuring provides is the top-cover strategic look to start implementing more sworn officers on the ground. That would give us the best opportunity to do community policing, and that’ll be the next step for ‘22, which is to add four more sworn police officers within the city,” Winningham said.
The two lieutenant positions will be filled internally. This move may potentially increase the city’s ability to retain officers, Winningham said, explaining that police personnel in Dickinson typically leave after a period of time to move into a higher-up position at a different law enforcement agency. Winningham said that this restructuring of administration will give more officers an opportunity to climb the ladder while staying in Dickinson.
Though Dickinson has an overall low crime rate, it is important for the police department to continue to reduce crime, and adding more police is the best approach, Winningham remarked.
“It's still very difficult to hire police officers throughout the country, in the current state of affairs with the way, nationally, the media makes police out to be the bad guy. It's not the case in the city of Dickinson,” he said. “And so we think it'll still be a challenge to hire new police officers. But I think we will continue to increase our recruiting efforts to show the goodness of this city. I think we'll see good officers coming to the city.”
The Dickinson Police Department also requested that the police administrative assistant position be reclassified from a grade 11 position to a grade 13 position with the title of executive administrative assistant. This change would add $1,100 to the position’s yearly salary.
The commission unanimously approved the motion 4-0.
With the restructuring of the Dickinson Police Department, the city is potentially looking at reviewing other departments and those administration structures.
“So for now, all positions within the city are going through a relook to meet the requirements of the city. And so what I would say is that if there's a requirement for the city then the job is something that we want to make sure that they are properly staffed. So that's by task and by job description," he said. "And so every three years, as per city code, each department should be reviewing every requirement for the city and then bringing those to the city administrator to then potentially go and do a budget review, like we do every year, and add those requirements — that's either adding positions or subtracting positions.”
Winningham added, “I think that overall what you're seeing in our current city administration is the intent to professionalize everything we're dealing within city government. So that's items we bring forward to the city, that's how the commission votes. The intent is to professionalize every department, so that the public sees us doing everything as perfect as possible in a transparent way.”