Steve Burkett, City Manager
July 19, 2010
Police Chief Spinks
Council,â€Š In the last few weeks there have been several questions from citizens at City Council meetings and in the news media regarding the reason for Chief Spinksâ€™ departure from our police department. The former chief has also been quoted in the news media that the reason for his termination was that I wanted my own team and he was unaware of any other reasons for my decision. Although developing an effective management team is an important part of my responsibility, the desire for my own team is hardly a substantive reason for crucial personnel decisions such as replacing the police chief. Accordingly, I decided it was important to provide the City Council with some facts regarding the reasons behind my decision. As you know I have not previously gone into detail with you regarding my reasons for the decision primarily because explanation of my reasons served no City purpose. My overall goal was to allow Bob the ability to make a smooth transition to a new bigger and better police chief job. Unfortunately my lack of comments on the reasons for Bob's termination has resulted in a perception that he has perpetuated in the media that my decision was somewhat arbitrary or without substantial management and operational justification. The position of police chief is one of the most important department head positions in city government because the police department in our society is given the responsibility to enforce our laws and make decisions regarding restricting rights that are provided under our form of government. Given these factors I weighed this issue very carefully before making the decision to seek a new chief. During my career as City Manager I have worked with eight different police chiefs and have hired new chiefs in three different cities. In each of those cases the police chief vacancy was created by the chief moving on to take a police chief position in some other city. As a consultant, I have also assisted two
Page 1 of 4
other city managers in the selection process for their chiefs. One of my former chiefs achieved particularly high standards as a leader in the profession and served as the President of The International Association of Chiefs of Police. Based on my experiences with these different chiefs and with my involvement in the recruitment and selection process, I have a clear understanding of the requirements of the position and the standards that we should expect for the position here in Sequim. After serious thought and consideration, I came to the conclusion that Chief Spinks did not meet my expectations. In my experience, it is not difficult to find a chief that has the experience, training, and education to meet the technical and operational requirements of the chiefs’ position. However, in addition to the technical requirements, I expect the chief to possess excellent leadership and management skills and values. It's important that the chief develop and maintain the trust and respect of the employees in the department, establish excellent customer service expectations, demonstrate effective teamwork with the City Manager, department heads, Council and the community. The chief also must be an effective financial manager and be able to provide high quality customer service for good value and at a reasonable price. The best chiefs I have worked with in my career have demonstrated all of these characteristics and values., The reason I asked the chief to search for a new job is because I came to the conclusion that the City needed a change in approach, style, direction and results in our police department.
Employee Satisfaction and Trust There is a need for more effective communication and trust inside of the department. Recently I conducted an employee survey that indicated some concerns about the organizational culture and environment from the perspective of the employees of the department. While the police staff has continued to provide excellent service to the City, the level of communication and trust in the department illustrated by the survey are not acceptable. The new chief and I will be responsible to develop an environment inside the department that improves the employee satisfaction levels. I will be selecting the chief that can help me build a department where there is mutual respect, consistently and fairly applied discipline, an organization that uses taxpayers’ money wisely and cost effectively. I understand that we can't keep everyone happy all the time, but I am confident that we can improve the levels of teamwork, trust and effective communication. In my experience, high levels of employee satisfaction leads to high levels of productivity, cost effective community service and customer satisfaction.
Page 2 of 4
Financial Management Another area where I expect a new chief to provide new direction is in the management of our scarce financial resources. Like all departments I expect our police department to provide high-quality services in a cost-effective manner. One of the most common measures of police department cost effectiveness is the annual operating expenditure per capita. The City of Sequim currently has an estimated population of 5, 830 with an annual police department operating budget of $2.4 million. This represents a cost per capita for the department of $411. Most other cities I have managed have achieved low crime rates similar to Sequim's but at annual per capita costs for police services of less than $200. Below is a comparison of per capita costs for cities comparable to Sequim. Gig Harbor $380 Blaine $369 Port Orchard $341 Port Townsend $307 Poulsbo $286 Normandy Park $263 Woodinville $230 Port Angeles $228 The current issue of “Public Management” magazine includes an article regarding the City of Sammamish police contract with King County. The article illustrates the costeffective nature of the contract and compares the following annual per capita costs for police services: Lynnwood $383 Puyallup $346 Bothell $320 Kirkland $314 Edmonds $204 Sammamish $101 As you can see, Sequim is the most expensive police department measured by the cost per capita in these comparisons. I've yet to find a city in the state that has a higher cost per capita. Despite these data, the annual reports, budget requests and other written material from our police department suggests that we need more resources in order to handle an increasing workload, however, our workload as measured by dispatched calls for service per officer, a more standard workload measure, is very moderate. The trend of the increasing cost for our department is inconsistent with other similar cities and unsustainable. Since 2004 the cost per capita for our department has increased by 42%. This is inconsistent with my approach to financial management. I intend that all of our services will be high quality, yet excellent value represented by a reasonable cost per
Page 3 of 4
capita to our citizens. This is perhaps the most important change in direction that is needed in our police department. Another example of my concerns with past financial management in the department is the proposed police department remodel. As the Council knows, in December of 2008, Bob Spinks as Interim City Manager proposed that the City lease additional space to expand at the current location of the police department. The Police Chief and our public works staff told the City Council that we could accomplish the required remodel and tenant improvements within the approved $320,000 budget. A year and a half later we have continued to pay rent on the space and have yet to occupy it. Before proceeding with the project, I asked our new Public Works Director to provide me with an updated estimate of the actual budget required to accomplish this project. The new estimate is $660,000. In the near future I will be providing additional information about this project and already have recommended to the Council that we not proceed because such an investment in that space will not be cost effective either from the perspective of the police officers using the space or the taxpayers funding the improvements.
Conclusionâ€Š In summary, after completing a thorough evaluation of the department operations, I decided that it was necessary to change the direction, organizational culture and financial management of the police department. Although there has been some negative reaction and questions by citizens, the reaction and feedback to me from employees in the department has been positive. I am very comfortable with this decision and confident that I will be able to appoint a new chief that will be able to develop an environment of trust, productivity and cost effective provision of public services. We have excellent police officers and other employees in our department that have established a long tradition of providing excellent customer service and understand the crime trends and service needs of our City. While we wish Bob well in his future endeavors, I believe that in the best interest of Sequim, a change was needed. If you have questions or need additional information please feel free to contact me.
Page 4 of 4
Published on Oct 17, 2010