Cop shop changes coming

Sunnyside City Manager Don Day does not want to predict when the decision on a new police chief will be made.

“I did that once and it bit me in the butt,” said Day.

What he will say is that the reorganization of the police department is going forward and that he hopes to put a new chief in place “soon”. He said that if a new chief is not selected by the time the department is reorganized, Deputy Police Chief Phil Schenck will be made the interim chief.

The police department is currently organized with the chief as the top officer and a deputy chief next in the line of command. A number of sergeants report to the chief and deputy chief.

The new chain of command would add two commanders while eliminating the position of deputy chief, one in charge of operations and the other in charge of support services and the jail.

“The titles of those positions are subject to change,” said Day. “Nothing is finalized yet.”

As proposed, the operations commander would have four patrol sergeants and the detective sergeant reporting to him. The sergeant of each shift would be responsible for four to five officers. The goal is to spread out the responsibilities.

The support commander would have a slightly smaller command, but Day said more people would report directly to this commander.

“It evens out,” he said. “Both jobs will have a lot of responsibility.”

Schenck is still being considered for the position of police chief, according to Day. However, if Schenck is not promoted to the chief’s spot, Day said the change to commander would not be a demotion.

“It’s a title change,” he said.

The final decision on the reorganization will be up to the civil service commission.

“The commission has to approve the two new positions before this can go into effect,” said Day. “They will be meeting early January, then we’ll know.”

As for the position of chief, Day continues to be tight-lipped. He said all three finalists named this past September are still being considered, but he won’t say whether or not the new chief will be one of the three.

“Nothing is off the table,” he said.

Schenck is one of the three. The others are Susan Shultz, who served as a commander in the Bainbridge Island Police Department, including time as acting chief of police, and Rick Needham, who was a police chief in Monte Vista, Colo.

Day said he’s been conducting interviews with city staff, police officers and citizens to find out what will be best for the community. He said he wants a leader who will pull the city together.

“This is a very divided city,” he said. “I didn’t realize how divided it was when I came here. I want a chief who can heal the divide.”

Day said he hasn’t finished talking with the city’s officers, but the opinions he has listened to so far will factor into his decision on a chief.

“I don’t want to rush this and end up with somebody who is not right for Sunnyside,” he said. “This town deserves a great chief.”

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