Columbia police chief seeks addition of deputy chief position

Friday, April 17, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 12:11 a.m. CDT, Friday, April 17, 2009

COLUMBIA — Columbia Police Chief Kenneth Burton is asking the City Council to approve a new deputy police chief position to help streamline the police department's administration.

City Manager Bill Watkins said Burton's request led him to recommend that the council establish a deputy chief position at the Columbia Fire Department to maintain consistency in the two departments.

The second-in-command position is common in most police departments and would help alleviate the power gap between the police chief and the captains, Burton said. 

"It's an opportunity to have an executive that you can work with, without the territorialism captains have over their divisions," Burton said.

Burton, who was sworn in as police chief on March 30, said he was looking for someone who could "think globally" and act as "a trusted confidant to bounce ideas off."

Burton has yet to name who would fill the position, but plans to do so within 30 days.

He said he hopes to use the position to help prepare that person to become a police chief, Burton said.

All four police captains and several lieutenants were interviewed for the position. Burton said he is close to a decision and would probably select a captain to fill the position.

Then-Columbia Police Chief Norman Botsford eliminated the position in 1997 after Deputy Police Chief Dennis Veach retired.

Battalion Chief Steve Sapp of the Columbia Fire Department said the new position would be "simply a change in name." Assistant Fire Chief Chuck Witt would change titles to deputy fire chief.

Witt, a 22-year veteran of the Columbia Fire Department, has held the assistant chief position for five years. His pay, responsibilities and role in the department would remain unchanged, but Witt's maximum pay would be increased, Watkins said.

The deputy chief positions would be in the same pay grade, Watkins said. The new police position would increase the city budget by $20,000, according to documents included with the ordinance.

Watkins said the police department would eliminate one of the five captain positions, one of which is vacant, to provide the additional funding.

The council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance at its meeting Tuesday.

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Ray Shapiro April 17, 2009 | 12:47 a.m.

("City Manager Bill Watkins said Burton's request led him to recommend that the council establish a deputy chief position at the Columbia Fire Department to maintain consistency in the two departments.")
In larger cities, I can understand the competitive concern to maintain consistency between fire departments and the police. Why would our city manager recommend an unsolicited add-on to the fire department here in Columbia? Is the fire department as swamped with fires as we are with crime? Let's not put bureaucratic consistency before common sense or critical need.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr April 17, 2009 | 5:11 a.m.

Well if there is to be a Deputy Chief of Police then Dressner should get it.

(Report Comment)

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