With an eye to improving community policing, six Fort Worth police officials have been promoted to a new rank of commander, to combat a lack of "buy-in" among some of the captains who were leading divisions, after Chief Joel Fitzgerald told the City Council.
Although the new positions will cost $1.2 million, he said no additional money will be required. Instead, each patrol division will be expected to reduce overtime pay costs by at least 15 percent to help make up the difference, Fitzgerald said.
The newly appointed commanders were each assigned in August to one of the cities' six patrol divisions, including the new north division. They are Greg Weathers (south), Michael Shedd (east), Neil Noakes (north), Cynthia O'Neil (west), Pedro Criado (northwest) and Joseph Sparrow (central).
Shedd was previously a captain. Weathers, Noakes, O'Neil, Criado and Sparrow were previously lieutenants. The commander rank is just below deputy chief, which is below assistant chief and chief.
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The commanders will "focus entirely on patrol operations," Fitzgerald said. "We didn't ask for commanders to go over investigative units or make it a cushy position somewhere in the agency so someone can lay back and not do anything. That's not the point."
Fitzgerald told the City Council at a Nov. 7 meeting that the problem with just having a captain over each patrol division was two-fold: The captains were "already over-worked," having to manage day-to-day duties, such as budgeting and filing reports, while also ensuring that officers in the street maintained a community-policing approach.
Part of the community policing effort was returning to a beat concept, where officers were assigned to a patrol a more specific area, such as a neighborhood. But the beat concept under the leadership of the patrol captains "wasn't working," Fitzgerald said.
"The communication wasn't there [from the captains]," Fitzgerald said. "The buy-in wasn't there...It legitimized in my mind why we needed different people running our patrol division."
When Councilman Brian Byrd asked why under-performing captains could not simply be swapped out or fired, Fitzgerald said "you can't do that. It's a Civil Service Commission position."
Captain is the highest Civil Service Commission rank. Any demotions or firings can be appealed to the Civil Service Commission. For the appointed positions of commander and higher, Fitzgerald can demote officers as he sees fit.
"Changes can be made immediately if expectations aren't met," Fitzgerald said of the new commanders.