GOSHEN — Despite the reservations of some officers, the city’s Board of Works and Council approved changes to the policy-making levels of the Goshen Police Department on Monday, Dec. 30.
Instead of two assistant chiefs and a detective captain, the department will now feature one assistant chief and two division chiefs, one overseeing patrol and another overseeing investigation.
In order to create the new positions, one of the two current assistant chief positions will be eliminated, as will the currently vacant detective captain position.
Police Chief Wade Branson had requested the shake-up to try to improve communication and efficiency within the department.
With the changes, Branson remains at the top level of policy-making in the GPD, followed by the assistant chief and then the two division chiefs. Each level is considered as a separate rank and pay grade.
The Board of Works actually approved the creation of the new positions at its 2 p.m. meeting Tuesday. The council’s role in the matter was simply to approve the funding so the appointed persons can receive the level of compensation as soon as appointments are made.
The funds for both assistant chiefs’ and the detective captain’s salaries had previously been approved by the council in the 2014 budget. The council’s decision Monday night simply approved the pay structure for the new positions, rather than for those now being eliminated.
In a memo sent to council members prior to Monday’s meeting, Branson said he intends for the division chiefs to be paid $59,637.50.
Through the elimination of the previous two positions, the chief said he would not have to request an additional appropriation to cover the salaries of the division chiefs.
Though the division chief appointments will officially be made by Mayor Allan Kauffman, Kauffman said he will rely on Branson’s recommendations.
Several members of the department voiced their concerns about the shift at Monday night’s council meeting.
Mark Huser expressed his and other officers’ shock when they heard about the changes in the news Monday morning.
“None of the police department was familiar with what was taking place, at least no one I’ve spoken with,” he said. “I would have liked to have known about it prior to this meeting.”
Councilman Jeremy Stutsman, liaison to the police and fire departments, said he received several calls from officers with similar feelings.
Another GPD officer, Jeff Schrock, was more pointed in his assessment of the changes.
“Disagree with this completely, utterly, period,” he said.
Steve Priem questioned the wisdom of turning what was a tested position into more appointed positions. Priem’s concern led Councilman Everett Thomas to seemingly get to the heart of the matter.
“Chief, you know I tend to talk about the elephant in the room,” Thomas said, addressing Branson. “The concern I’ve heard is nepotism.”
Thomas and Council President Jim McKee have both heard concerns from officers that Branson is considering a relative for one of the division chief positions.
“I’ve tried to do everything by the book going through the legal department on every step that I’ve went,” Branson said in response.
Though he would not say who he was considering recommending, Branson said he had two individuals in mind for each of the new division chief spots.
Kauffman acknowledged that one of the people Branson is considering for one of the new positions is a relative of Branson. He said that though it is a fine line to walk, the appointment could still be made legally.
“I trust that he’s not going to appoint somebody who’s related to him if he’s not the right person that Wade thinks can do the job,” Kauffman said. “And I don’t think it’s fair to that officer that he can’t be appointed to a position because he’s related to Wade.”
With the positions already created earlier in the afternoon by the Board of Works, Stutsman said the council did not have much choice but to vote to fund the positions.
“We vote for what we believe is what is right for the city, but it’s not always the popular course to take,” he said. “This may be one of those situations.”
“I’m not sure how involved we want to get in creating policy for our departments,” Stutsman said.
After discussion wrapped up, the council unanimously voted to approve the ordinance amending the department’s 2014 salaries.
Following the meeting, Branson would not say who he is considering for the new positions. He did say, however, that current assistant chief Jose Miller will be retained in his role.
The other assistant chief, Kyle Priem, will be reassigned, Branson said.