It has been six months now since Chief Dave Walker embarked on a new police administrative arrangement to oversee two municipal police departments.
Walker has served as chief of the Manawa Police Department since Jan. 1, 2009.
During 2013, the city of Marion asked Walker to take on the added responsibility after Marion’s newly hired chief resigned.
“The other motivation to try something different was actually brought about through changes at the state level since 2011,” said Walker.
Historically, small rural cities tend to hire lower salaried police chiefs or someone brand new to the position.
In the future, the new Shared Chief Agreement will give both cities an advantage in seeking future police chief candidates. Through the agreement and working together, the two municipalities will have the option to employ a higher qualified and experienced chief candidate, that otherwise if acting alone, neither city could afford to attract.
“The agreement also creates an orderly transition over the next two to four years leading to my retirement and for my eventual replacement,” said Walker. “Until that happens, the goal is to ensure stability for both departments through a smooth transition to my successor. I also have time to mentor interested officer staff to become ‘qualified’ to apply for the position.”
Walker explained it took several months to put systems in place in Marion meeting his satisfaction. “Fortunately like Manawa, we have a couple of experienced and very dedicated officers who made the task far easier, “said Walker.
“Another advantage under the agreement is part-time officer staffing,” he explained. “We were hit hard over winter with officer sick leave and one officer being injured. I now have the ability to schedule part-time officers to fill unexpected full-time officer shift openings to work in both cities. Before the agreement, we had two chiefs playing tug-of-war over the same part-time officers. The agreement makes things far more efficient to staff both cities without the scheduling conflict often seen in the past. Now, we can train them in one city and offer the diversity of working in two cities.”
“In the past, you saw me responding to calls for service in the city. Today, you’ll get an officer responding to those calls, which provides better service,” Walker said. “This allows me the time required to meet the administrative demands of the job, while the officer taking care of your call has more focused-time to meet your needs. I will still answer calls as needed or when no one is available.”
Besides proving the agreement’s new operational efficiencies, both cities realize police budget savings. Both cities split the cost of Walker’s wages, medical, FICA and retirement benefits. Walker’s salary reduction at Manawa, combined with his voluntary contribution toward retirement and medical premiums according to Wisconsin Act 10 rates, provides the actual savings.
A portion of the savings goes toward the cost of part-time officer staff.
Prior to the Shared Chiefs Agreement, Walker’s benefits were 100 percent covered. The intangible benefit is having a seasoned police veteran (his career began in 1971) administrator running things – it’s hard to place a price on that.
“I can now monitor both cities seven days a week, instead of five under the former system,” Walker said. “It’s very rewarding to see the benefits for both cities coming together.”
“The officers in both departments have worked hard over the years to build excellent rapport with the respective communities and I want to expand their horizons for career growth before I leave,” he added.
“The Shared Chiefs Agreement has allowed us to be on the leading edge of municipal agreements and be the ground breakers for further agreements,” said John Smith, mayor of Manawa. “We have already seen the benefit through solving several cases in each municipality, when in the past a case in one of the cities may have gone unsolved.”
Both departments training together saves money as well,” Smith said. “One of the biggest advantages is when sickness or injury takes an officer from duty we’re now able to utilize another officer from either municipality to cover. Retention of officers due to being able to offer hours in two municipalities has so many positives as well. This agreement has opened many opportunities for future agreements and has become the successful testing ground for other municipalities who may be looking into this. Now they don’t have to reinvent the wheel, so to say.”
Besides the challenge of learning about the new Marion community, in January 2014, the Wisconsin Department of Justice presented Walker with a simultaneous triennial audit request for both cities on their Criminal Justice Information Systems.
“In the last several years, the complexity of computer and software systems, along with federal and state security mandates, rose beyond our police staff’s capability to manage,” Walker said. “The introduction of a professional IT vendor approved by the Manawa Common Council helped us meet the new technical challenges and, consequently, better prepared us to become successful in passing the audit.”
“Again, through the Shared Chief Agreement, another benefit was to enable the same IT vendor to be approved by the city of Marion council to work in their city,” he added. “It provided a very timely, speedy and efficient improvement to the Marion computer systems and other protocols to meet mandated audit standards.”
Last month, the mayors from both cities met to evaluate progress on the agreement.
“The mutual agreement of our two cities to offer seasoned leadership for our police departments under the fiscal constraints we all experience has been achieved,” said Marion Mayor Pat Mielke. “We have created a model that other municipalities are considering. Partnerships and sharing are part of the answers for our future solutions to fiscal constraints while continuing to offer quality services.”
“I would like to add opportunities for police staff in both cities, while at the same time I’m enjoying the challenge and diversity the new job brings,” Walker said. “I certainly appreciate the wisdom of both Manawa and Marion elected officials and councils getting behind me in this endeavor; their support means everything.”
“It’s really planning for the future; to figure out ways to maintain or improve law enforcement services,” he concluded. “If we can accomplish this and save money for the taxpayers, I’ll be satisfied with that.”