June 4 – Avon Lake

The city’s administration has proposed a captain’s position for the police department.

The Human Resource (HR) Committee listened Monday night to HR Director George Wintermyer explain that with Police Chief Dave Owad’s retirement in a few years, the position of captain would be one where all lieutenants would have an equal opportunity for which to compete.

The position would, in a way, act as a “feeder” into the chief’s position, he said. The captain and lieutenants would all be eligible, however, to test for the chief’s position. The captain’s position would replace one of the lieutenants. Wintermyer said the administration has not gotten into the details of salary, but estimated it would be somewhere between the chief’s and lieutenant’s salaries.

Ward 4 Councilman and committee member Dave Kos asked how the possible elimination of a lieutenant’s position would affect the job duties.

“There are four lieutenants for a reason,” he said. “How does this improve the overall mission statement of the department?”

Wintermyer said a captain would carry some authority over the lieutenants, who have equal authority among each other. The elimination of a lieutenant’s position would require union approval, he said.

In order to move forward with this, Ward 1 Councilman and committee member Tim Rush said they needed to establish why the position of captain is needed.

“The system we have now, is it broke?” he asked. “Does it need fixed?”

Wintermyer responded all functions of the department are being met.

Council President Greg Zilka asked who initiated this discussion, whether it was Wintermyer’s idea or if someone approached him.

Wintermyer said the mayor asked him to put together a job description for an administrative captain. The chief has received a copy of the job description to review, as has the Civil Service Commission.

Wintermyer said Owad indicated he would prefer to maintain the status quo. Owad was unavailable for comment by Press deadline.

Civil Service Commission Chairman Jack Hall brought Thurston Cosner, a police and safety forces psychologist, to the meeting to explain a leadership assessment.

Cosner said the captain would manage the lieutenants, and the city would need to determine to what extent that would take away from the chief’s responsibilities.

“What we need to do if we’re going to start the position up is begin with a sound analysis of need for the position, which I have frankly not heard yet,” he said. “We also need an analysis of how the position would be different from others. What is this position going to contribute to the strategic mission of the department? This sort of thing must be massaged and studied before designing an assessment program.”

A good assessment program will debrief all of the candidates, he said. The program would ascertain their goals and then inform them based on the assessment results what would be the best track for them to take to develop their skills for when the chief’s assessment does comes up, he said.

The city will need to develop a sound rationale and show how the captain’s position “is going to give you your bang for the buck,” he said.

Present during the meeting were Lt. Duane Streator and Lt. Sean Bockelman. Streator told the committee he would refrain from commenting for the time being.

Bockelman explained there has been strife among the lieutenants. The position of the executive lieutenant has the person learning the chief’s duties. Though some administrative duties are spread among all lieutenants, the executive lieutenant handles scheduling, budgeting, taking complaints and other responsibilities traditionally associated with upper management.

“Streator, in that position, is getting what I consider to be a several year advantage sitting in that position,” Bockelman said.

The other issue he has is a personal one, Bockelman said. The lieutenants, with the exception of the executive lieutenant, rotate their shifts. He said he realizes that is part of the job, but he studied hard and moved up the hierarchy to one of the top ranks but has no advantage over the department’s most junior officers.

He added he respects Streator and considers him an “excellent supervisor.”

“If Streator gets captain, I would be honored to work for him,” he said. “I also know by doing that, I have an opportunity to put myself in that position. It either happens or it doesn’t happen.”

Ward 3 Councilman Larry Meiners said he was uncomfortable with discussing this matter without the chief present. Wintermyer said the chief knew the meeting was taking place.

“With Owad not at the table, I have a very, very difficult time supporting this position,” Meiners said. “If he supported it, he’d be here.”

Contact Bryan Wroten at bwroten@2presspapers.com

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