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Russellville restructures RPD

It was a big night for the Russellville Police Department at the city council meeting Monday. Between personnel changes and the purchase of new vehicles, the RPD will soon look like a whole new department.

It’s no secret that the RPD has faced higher-than-acceptable turnover in recent months. Chief Chris Hargett and the city council hope to begin to combat that with an employment ordinance that was approved at Monday’s meeting.

“We’re having a hard time keeping employees once we’ve hired them,” Hargett said. The low retention represents a loss on investment in terms of both money and time spent training. “We did some research and found where other agencies are doing contracts with their employees … When you get hired, you’re obligating yourself for three years to the department. If you resign, are terminated or just quit, you would be responsible for repaying the city the amount for training, uniforms – anything the city is out.” The ordinance, Hargett said, is designed to discourage people from coming in, going through the police academy and then quitting.

“We have to do something to ensure we’re getting our money’s worth,” Hargett said. He recounted the case of one officer who recently was hired, went through training and then quit within a year – to the tune of roughly a $10K loss to the department. “That’s just money thrown out the window. We’ve got to do something to protect us and keep those people here.”

Hargett said he is confident the required contract will help the situation.

“This is something a lot of cities are doing,” Mayor David Grissom said. “It costs a lot of money to get (officers) through the training, and we need to make sure they want to be police officers and be committed … Maybe this will help us.” Grissom said adjusting the pay rates for officers, which is a goal upon completion of a large-scale city pay structure study currently underway through Auburn University, should also help to remedy the RPD retention challenges.

The department structure was also addressed at Monday’s meeting, in a move Grissom said better reflects the current reality at the department. Hargett said the adjustment to the structure will also benefit his force, which largely features younger, less-experienced officers.

“Even some of our sergeants don’t have a lot of years of experience,” he said. “(We want to) appoint somebody to captain who has quite a few more years and put somebody out there with (our officers) who is more experienced and can help them with decision-making.”

Currently, Hargett said Capt. Mike Prince is filling multiple roles in the department – completing duties that would regularly be assigned to a major as well as serving as a captain. Since Prince’s other duties hinder his ability to serve effectively as a patrol captain, the need is great to put someone in place in the major’s position.

In 2008, Russellville City Council put in place the position of major in the Russellville Police Department – a role directly beneath the chief. However, this position was never filled. The council voted Monday to declare a vacancy for the position as part of this reorganization, to be hired from within the classified service.

Hargett said Prince will be a strong candidate for major, “based on his experience.” If and when Prince moves up to major, there will be a vacancy for captain, which will likely be filled by a current lieutenant – providing more seasoned leadership throughout the ranks. Hargett said the captain will also be able to be more involved and more active, directly providing senior leadership and serving as a presence on both shifts for more direct oversight and guidance of less experienced officers.

In two unanimous votes, the city declared eight 2005 Ford Crown Victoria police vehicles surplus and approved the purchase of eight new 2016 Ford Police Interceptor police vehicles at a cost of $31,330 each. Council members and Grissom expressed pride in purchasing the vehicles through the budget, not on credit. These vehicles will be purchased from from the General Fund (one), the STAR fund (one), and the Local Gas Tax fund (six).

The RPD and the council aim to get the force’s fleet of police vehicles on rotation, so they don’t all need replacing at the same time.

The city council also approved the hire of two new patrol officers – Travis Trott and Dustin Lovelady – and and declared a vacancy for dispatcher and approved the hire of Charles Adcock.

 

 

The council also:

–       approved the purchase of a mosquito fogger sprayer for the Russellville Street Department.

–       approved the Parks and Recreation Basketball Contract.

–       approved a bank resolution for approval of a new checking account for the Hal Kirby Jr. Park Improvement Project.

–       hired two firefighter I positions in the Russellville Fire Department.

–       declared vacancy for firefighter II in the RFD to be hired from within the classified service.

–       approved John Anderson contract for 2016 Fourth of July Jam on Sloss Lake.

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