COLUMBIA — As part of a major reorganization set for January, the Columbia Police Department on Thursday promoted three sergeants to the rank of lieutenant and announced a planned revision of how the department deals with complaints.
Two of the lieutenants, Dianne Bernhard and John Worden, will be assigned to the Patrol Division under Capt. Stephen Monticelli. The reorganization will consolidate the division under one commander.
“It stems from a need to try to enhance our communications, both internally and externally,” Police Chief Randy Boehm said. “At the same time, we’re trying to find ways to lessen the administrative duties of our patrol sergeants.”
The third new lieutenant, John White, will serve in the yet-to-be-created Professional Standards Unit under Capt. Mike Martin. Bernhard, White and Worden will be the only lieutenants at the department. The rank did not previously exist.
The reorganization comes after the City Council on Monday approved the makeup of a committee that will examine the potential use of citizen oversight of the police department. The 15-person panel, led by retired MU professor Rex Campbell, will begin meeting after Thanksgiving.
The Patrol Division is currently split into East and West districts. Monticelli, the West District commander, will oversee the entire division. Capt. Zim Schwartze, the East District commander, will become head of the new Community Services Division. In that post, she will be in charge of a variety of units, including the Traffic Unit, the Youth Services Unit and the Community Services Unit.
Monticelli and Schwartze now share patrol oversight and are each in charge of several units.
“We’re changing their duties,” Boehm said. “There won’t be any less or more of them.”
The new lieutenants in the patrol division will handle administrative tasks, such as responding to inquiries from the media and citizens. Their promotions will increase their salaries by roughly 5 percent, Boehm said.
White, who now works in the Community Services Unit, was promoted to the Professional Standards Unit as part of an auditor’s recommendation to streamline the department’s internal affairs policy. The new unit would handle both criminal and noncriminal complaints about the department.
Aaron Thompson, a consultant hired in January to audit the department’s internal review policies, said in an earlier interview that the unit would ensure “consistency in discipline,” which he said some Columbia police officers feel is lacking. Thompson also said the unit would allow supervisors to spend more time on the street with their officers instead of filling out paperwork.
In an April report issued by Thompson, he writes, “the unit should be the central repository of all complaints, administrative investigations, criminal investigations involving members, and disciplinary action.”
The unit will consist of White and, eventually, a sergeant. Martin will not technically be part of the unit and will remain as Boehm’s executive assistant. Boehm said the department is trying to schedule internal affairs training for both White and Martin.
Boehm said the unit will work closely with the Internal Affairs Audit Committee on the new internal affairs policy. He said he expects a finished policy in January.
In addition to the internal affairs procedures, the unit will also review all of the department’s various policies, including arrest procedures and use-of-force guidelines. Boehm said review of these other policies will be an “ongoing process.”
Besides the new unit, Thompson’s report also includes a plethora of suggested changes to the department’s internal affairs policy.
“Overall, this policy has a sense of being a bit cumbersome and confusing,” Thompson states in the report.
In an Oct. 29 progress report about the changes, Thompson praised the department’s work on the changes.
Boehm said the reorganization should be in place by late January.