Middletown planning to reorganize city, police department positions

Plans are being made to reorganize city administrative and police departments at the Middletown City Building. FILE PHOTO
Plans are being made to reorganize city administrative and police departments at the Middletown City Building. FILE PHOTO

Middletown is working to reorganize the overall organization as well as the Division of Police.

City Manager Jim Palenick said he wants to prioritize a focus of responsiveness, efficiency and customer service in proposing multiple changes.

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“We want to streamline the entire organization and be creative and innovative,” Palenick said. “We’ve not made any wholesale changes, we’re just tweaking now.”

Palenick proposed moving parts of the Economic Development Department to a new Development Services Department that would be led by Planning Director Ashley Combs.

That department would lead efforts to get developments approved and constructed, including planning and zoning, building inspection, and Community Development Block Grants.

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Palenick is also planning to reinstate an assistant city manager position in 2021, which would be filled by Administrative Services Director Susan Cohen, who served as acting city manager prior to Palenick’s hiring.

Cohen would work on special projects and oversee multiple departments. Palenick oversees all administrative departments, and he would put more focus into economic development and development services and several other departments.

“This organization is leaner than any organization I have ever seen,” Palenick said.

Council will see legislation to finalize the administrative reorganization at a future meeting.

Proposed police department reorganization

Police Chief David Birk wants to change his command structure to reinstate middle managers at the rank of lieutenant.

The current command structure under Birk includes four deputy chiefs/majors who oversee the four divisions of investigations, administrative services, patrol and jail/services. There are also 10 sergeants, including eight are in the patrol division, one in investigations and one in narcotics.

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The department now rises sergeants directly to deputy chief positions, and Birk wants to add positions in between.

“We need to develop leaders for the future and return to a middle management model,” Birk said.

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Upcoming retirements of three deputy chiefs by the end of 2022 will help to cover the costs of the transition. With the investigations deputy chief retiring in September, Birk is proposing to eliminate that position and use the saved salary to hire an additional officer and move an officer to start a traffic unit.

When the other two deputy chiefs in patrol and jail/services retire in 2022, those positions will be eliminated and converted to lieutenant positions. Birk said the overall savings would be about $78,631 and used to hire another officer in 2022. One deputy chief, Eric Crank, would be retained at the rank of major.

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