The Oregon Police Department may be without a new police chief for at least the foreseeable future.
According to Mayor Mike Seferian, the search for a chief may not even begin until summer.
“We want to get a feel for what the people in the department want to see happen,” Seferian said. “This is going to take a little time. It could be mid to late summer before we fill the position.”
Assistant Police Chief Paul Magditch has assumed the responsibilities of the position vacated by former Police Chief Richard Stager. Stager, along with Lieutenant Brian Andrzejewski, retired in January.
Seferian said he and City Administrator Mike Beazley will begin talking to individuals within the police department in April.
“We are not going to have a committee,” Seferian said. “I have learned, from experience, that when you have a lot of people involved in the process, some people just won’t talk. They won’t be candid with you because they are afraid what they say will leak out of the department. When we get closer to finding out what the issues are in the department and maybe coming up with a few names of individuals for the position, then I envision Safety Committee Chairman Clint Wasserman, will be in on the process.”
Seferian said he is hoping to find out what the issues are within the police department first, before searching for a chief.
“We did the same thing when we were looking for a new fire chief,” he explained. “We learned a lot about the internal operations of the department. People were very candid with us and it helped us address some of the concerns we had.”
City Administrator Mike Beazley said the city is hoping to find a new chief who will fit into the department and continue with the tradition of offering excellent service.
“We will be looking for someone that can do the job and keep Oregon the safe community that our citizens expect,” Beazley said. “We are going to meet with officers who are interested in sitting down and discussing the department with us. We want to get a sense of where the department is and where they think it should go.”
The publics’ as well as the officers’ perception of the police department needs to be worked on, Seferian said.
“I want a better perceived department by the public,” Seferian said. “I want them to be looked at as good guys, not bad guys. I would like the attitude to shift there. I would like to give some leeway to officers to offer warnings when it comes to speeding tickets and minor traffic offenses , if they can.”
“We have a good, alert police department. The public knows they will show up in a timely matter, unlike Toledo,” he continued. “We will be working with the attitude and the demeanor of the department as a whole. We need to get the employees happier within the department. We want to become aware of any internal shortcomings and what we need to address. If it takes a little extra time, we will be saving money in the process.”
Seferian said he believed the public respected the department but they would like any contact with the department to be more pleasant.
“I believe the community knows we have a good department but, they would like a little warmer feeling from them,” he said. “I believe the police officers themselves want to be perceived better. We have had a couple chiefs in the past that were not too popular within the department or with the public.”
“Stager was better perceived,” Seferian continued. “He wanted to retire and I respect his wishes. I wished he would have been there longer.”
Seferian said he believes morale within the department has been an issue for a very long time. He said morale did get a little better when Stager took the position, but clicks and other issues within the department remained.
“We need to get a feel from the members of the department to find out why the Tom Gulch and Mark Venia years did not work,” he said. “Something did not fit in the department with either and, as a result, the department as a whole reflected it. When Stager came in it got better. He was an improvement but, some issues from the Gulch years hung around. With a fresh beginning, hopefully we can get past the Gulch and Venia eras.”
“Gulch was like a reproduction of Venia,” Seferian continued. “Gulch brought no personality. Venia had a personality but he tried to get people to cater to him. If they did things his way they got the jobs they wanted in the detective bureau or special projects. Gulch hardly talked to anybody. Neither related to the department and both had their own agendas. They had dictatorships.”
Since promoting long time firefighter Ed Ellis to the fire chief position, the morale in the fire department has gotten better, Seferian said adding he hopes the same will happen within the police ranks.
“The morale in the fire department is better,” he said. “Attitudes are getting better and we want to achieve something better in the police department. Really, who do you want to pull you over? A cop who is happy or one who is pissed off at the world? We want cops to enjoy coming to work. We want them in as upbeat a mood as they can be.