Westerville Division of Police Chief Charles Chandler wants residents to know their law-enforcement department is planning for the future and making choices to protect the access and quality of service they expect.

One obvious change to meet that mission is a reorganization, or what Chandler calls a "streamlining of operations," that became effective Jan. 12.

In that streamlining, Ron McMillin has been promoted to assistant chief, filling the second vacant position in the executive office.

He will oversee the patrol operations of the department and supervise emergency communications.

Tracey Myers has been promoted to captain in a role that oversees investigations and records.

"The position of captain has been reintroduced into the WPD organization," Chandler said. "Records is now managed by the clerk of court, Marisa Akamine, after the retirement of a longtime employee earlier this year."

Steve Fridley, Tony Rudd, Doug Stephens, Brian Spoon, Greg Franey and Aaron Dickison have been promoted to the rank of lieutenant and will oversee the day-to-day operations of their units and their related shifts, Chandler said.

He said six individuals are now sergeants and will act as first-line supervisors, including: Dan Hord, Ryan Aspey, Dan Betts, Bryan Schwartz, Jesse Hibbitt, Justin Alloway and John Johnson.

"Overall this change promotes a higher level of internal accountability, more supervision over investigations and a more intense look at our policy and training standards," Chandler said. "These are areas vital to our agency as it continues to get younger while a veteran generation of officers transition from their law-enforcement careers."

Westerville City Manager David Collinsworth said the division has undergone significant change the past two years, beginning with the departure of Chief Joe Morbitzer, who became superintendent of the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and the appointment of Chandler as chief.

"More changes to improve the overall operations and efficiency of the division include a new and flatter command structure more commonly found in central Ohio that also provides a more simplified supervisory structure for several of the WPD bureaus," Collinsworth said. "These new supervisors and command officers represent the future of the division."

Chandler said this year the reorganization has a net $21,500 impact.

"We added no additional supervisors, but a small percentage adjustment was made between two of the three ranks affected by the structure change," he said.

The adjustment was made through negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police, according to Chandler.

He said two of the highest-paid collective-bargaining positions were reallocated to lower ranks and an additional unclassified position will replace a union position in 2021.

"This position will be salary and not overtime-eligible," Chandler said. "This could further reduce the net impact over time."

He said the $21,500 will be covered by the department's current budget.

Chandler said the restructuring is based on principles that were his priorities when he became chief Aug. 18, 2019.

"First, Westerville City Council adopted a 'Westerville Safe' strategic priority that rightly focuses heavily on public safety and programs of the Westerville Division of Police," he said. "To support that, I have made our focus 'Westerville First.' This means that our core training, services and programs must directly benefit the residents of Westerville. We carefully weigh opportunities when it comes to personnel serving on task forces or focusing resources out of Westerville for any purpose."

He said the new structure helps the division streamline operations with some expanded space to focus on "Westerville First."

"The other piece is placing this structure ahead of several pending retirements in the next 24 months to assure a seamless transition among the major functions and leadership in the department," Chandler said.

He said four veteran officers are scheduled to retire in the same month, and three of those are supervisors.

"This gets us ready for that transition and better shares the institutional memory within WPD," Chandler said.

The objective over time is residents noticing better services from the police, he said.

"We still believe in community policing, so we're going to be out in Westerville and interacting with students, groups, organizations and neighborhoods," Chandler said. "We'll still be offering many of the same programs, like Cops & Kids Day this September."

Chandler said the rank of corporal, which was eliminated, is practically unrecognized in Ohio agencies.

"Police agencies vary in size so there really is no one-size-fits-all model," Chandler said.

"However, these titles and the responsibilities of supervisors will be more commonly recognized by our peer agencies. We are in the unique position of being the largest suburban agency in Franklin County but still very much smaller than (the Columbus Division of Police) and the sheriff's office. We are essentially in the middle and need our own unique structure."

The division's current strength is 76 members, said Christa Dickey, Westerville's community-affairs director.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

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