Fort Smith Police Department may add lieutenants, grant writer in restructuring proposal

by Aric Mitchell (aric.mitchell@gmail.com) 222 views 

The Fort Smith Police Department could soon add seven lieutenant positions while removing four sergeant and captain positions. The department also hopes to acquire an administrative position to help with grant writing and other duties.

Fort Smith Police Chief Nathaniel Clark informed the Board of Directors in a Tuesday (May 9) study session he was “in the process of restructuring the department to better enhance our service delivery.”

“In an effort to enhance our departmental leadership, and to be more in line with a paramilitary structure, I propose adding the rank of seven lieutenant positions, while deleting four sergeants and three captain positions through attrition and/or promotion,” Clark explained.

The rank of sergeant is grade 13 and the rank of captain is grade 15. The new rank of lieutenant will be grade 14 and the entry salary will be approximately $60,750 per year. The department has one captain and one sergeant position vacant due to retirement.

The annual salary for the retired captain was $67,727 while the annual salary for the departing sergeant is $59,155, Clark said. Entry level salaries for sergeant and captain are $51,438 and $62,105, respectively. According to an analysis conducted by Fort Smith Finance Director Jennifer Walker, “the total cost to the city will be approximately $4,000,” Clark said.

As for the second requested position of deputy director of administrative services, Clark said it would be a “unique” position in that it has “multi-managerial (and) administrative responsibilities and thereby will greatly enhance the department” to include planning and research; grant research and acquisitions; oversight regarding the operations of the Office of Professional Standards; and day-to-day administrative duties like equipment and facilities modernization, policy and procedure management, labor relations, contingency and interoperability planning, administration, and budgeting.

Clark requested the position’s starting pay at “a minimum of $65,000,” adding that a similar position at his previous post in Pine Bluff netted the department between $2.5 million and $3 million in grants per year.

“The Deputy Director of Administrative Services will perform highly responsible, professional and administrative work, and reports to and consults with the Chief of Police in determining overall plans and guiding principles,” Clark explained further in a memo dated May 5.

One area where a grant writer could help immediately is in the area of body cameras.

“In this day and time when we don’t have body cameras, we open ourselves up for liability,” Clark said.

The deputy director position, if approved, would be handled partially by a surplus from the police operating budget for 2017 and partially from the city’s reserve fund balance. A percentage breakdown was not given on Tuesday with Fort Smith City Administrator Carl Geffken stating there “are some figures” available, but it’s too early to tell.

“We have a projection of a slight surplus in the police department, but we’re only through the early parts of May, and we’d like to have six months (of data) to rely on. There is some funding (for the position), but we don’t want to run the police department’s budget into the negatives, just in case,” Geffken said.

The reserve fund balance would also be a temporary fix until the position becomes permanent starting with the 2018 budget. The Board has agreed to place the item on the May 16 regular meeting agenda.

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