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Third sergeant to be hired by Yellow Springs Police

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The Yellow Springs Police Department will be adding a new sergeant to its ranks, drawn from the officers currently on the force. Eligible officers are able to begin the application process this month, with the hope that a candidate will be chosen by mid-January, said Village Manager Patti Bates.

Police Chief David Hale said that another sergeant is needed to help streamline operations and provide a point of contact for other officers. Sergeants act in a supervisory capacity, delegating tasks, receiving reports and answering any procedural questions the other officers may have. Sergeants are also charge of a crime scene if such a situation were to arise. 

But while the two sergeants currently employed by the department — Sgt. Naomi Watson and Sgt. Josh Knapp — work fulltime (four 10-hour days), the department has been without this kind of supervision for at least three days per week, including most nights and weekends, which presented a demonstrated need for another supervisor, Hale said. 

With the addition of the new sergeant, a supervisor will be available seven days per week, from 8 a.m. to 1 a.m. and can be accessed accordingly. After the new sergeant is hired, the sergeants will begin a rotation in which they take turns working all shifts. 

Another potential benefit of promting an internal candidate is reducing the department’s relatively high turnover, Hale said, by providing opportunities for officers to ascend and paying them accordingly. (One Yellow Springs officer was terminated in July while two officers left to take positions in other departments this fall.)

“It is a good move for the village and the department,” Bates said. “And it provides a sense of continuity for employees.”

The size of the department will not increase with the addition of a third sergeant, Bates said, as a patrol officer position won’t be replaced when the officer is promoted to sergeant. The department currently has eight full-time patrol officers, including two sergeants (and will be hiring a ninth officer soon); after the promotion, the department will have nine full-time officers, including three sergeants.

All sergeants, including the new hire, will be paid 8 percent more than the top-paid officer in the department, an increase from the current sergeant pay rate of 3 percent more, but below industry norms, Bates  said. According to Bates, even with the pay raise, promoting one officer to the rank of sergeant without increasing the number of patrol officers will save the village an estimated $75,000 per year for the next 10 years. The need for 10 officers is just not there, said Hale.

The department is taking applications through Dec. 16 from its current officers, as the position is only open to internal candidates. To be eligible to apply for the position, candidates have to have at least two years of patrol experience and one year in Yellow Springs. The YSPD currently has four officers eligible for the position: Dave Meister, who has nine years on the Yellow Springs force; RJ Hawley, who has worked for 2.5 years in Yellow Springs and previously worked in Sugarcreek; Mark Charles, who has over two years’ experience in Yellow Springs and previously worked part time in Union Township; and Jeff Beam, with more than two years in Yellow Springs and part-time experience in Cedarville. Hale said officers Meister and Hawley have submitted letters of interest in the position, while the other two have expressed interest but have until 4 p.m. this Friday to officially apply.

After applying, candidates will take an exam administered by a third-party testing company called IO Solutions, which the department also uses to take applications for new officers. After the exam, the candidate will sit for an interview with a board comprised of Chief Hale and sergeants Knapp and Watson, where they will discuss the candidate’s competence and work ethic and ask “scenario-based” questions about how a candidate would handle certain situations on the job. The review board will present its recommendation to Bates, who will make the final decision. Upon being hired, the new sergeant will be under a one-year probationary period, during which he could be demoted back to patrol if the position isn’t a good fit.

Adding another sergeant was something the department wanted to do for a while, Hale said. As there are many relatively new faces in department, much of the candidate pool didn’t have the required amount of experience, either in Yellow Springs or in their career to date. Enough time has passed, however, that there are now four candidates. (The other five officers have less than two years’ experience each.) The department petitioned to change to the Yellow Springs administrative code in early November, which previously allowed the department one captain and two sergeants. Technically, the captain would supervise the supervisors, Hale said, but the size of the department didn’t warrant another administrative distinction. A resolution had to be passed by Village Council that officially allowed for three sergeants (or above) and no captain. Officer John Grote was the department’s last captain, Hale said.

Hale maintained that making the position available only to internal candidates speaks to the trust he has in his officers. Asked about the role of departmental politics in the selection process, Hale acknowledged that intra-departmental conflicts sometimes arise, but said he didn’t forsee any such conflicts affecting the sergeant hiring process.

“Looking outside of the department would look like there aren’t qualified internal candidates,” he said.

Hale said he doesn’t see the addition of a new supervisor noticeably affecting the relationship between the community and its police, as it is administrative change that will affect primarily the internal operations of the department. The administrative code always allowed for three supervisors, he said, and all that changed was wording about what ranks were allowed to fill these three positions.

Judith Hempfling, a member of Village Council and part of the Yellow Springs Criminal Justice Task Force, said she asked the chief a number of questions at Council meetings and agreed that the elevation of an officer to sergeant will be helpful, but not a profound change.

“It will benefit the village by reducing officer turnover and help residents and officers develop a sense of continuity,” she said.

Nevertheless, Hale said while he has not specifically solicited community input on the decision to hire a new sergeant, he welcomes feedback and discussion. The police department is an important part of the community and so the choice should be given due consideration, Bates said.

“We’re hoping to have the decision made by mid-January but are willing to let it take as much time as it needs,” Bates said.

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