Hobart favors promoting officer to sergeant in reorganization
By Kevin Boneske
HOBART – The village board voted Oct. 6 in support of promoting an existing Hobart-Lawrence police officer to sergeant, but will decide when it puts together the 2021 budget whether to add a captain.
Chief Randy Bani proposed a reorganization of the department to include supervision with a captain’s position, which if approved would be second in charge, and a sergeant, who would have a road position.
“That captain position would closely work with myself and would assist in the day-to-day operations and the management of the department, a second in charge, so to speak,” he said. “We continue to grow at a high rate, and losing a lieutenant position was sorely missed. The supervision was sorely missed by the staff, by myself, by the police commission.”
Bani said a captain would be responsible for overseeing the department and directing the work of a sergeant, who would be on the road and cover the evening shift.
“That sergeant position would basically be a no-cost, or no different in the budget from what we currently have, because of the reduction in pay when the demotion was made,” he said.
Bani said adding a captain would affect the budget by filling the position next July, with the fiscal impact for 2021 being half of the $80,000 annual salary, plus benefits.
“The captain could be charged with the maintenance and direction of the major case investigations, would be in charge of overseeing the operation of the sergeant and patrol division, would be a second in charge to myself, and would be somebody that would start being trained… that could ultimately walk into or be considered for the chief’s position when I resign,” he said.
Bani said he is under contract to be police chief until he is 65 1/2 and will be 63 next July.
Trustee Debbie Schumacher spoke against adding a captain’s position while Bani would still be the police chief.
“I just can’t see us budgeting for a whole extra person,” she said.
Schumacher said someone shouldn’t be hired as a captain under the pretense that person would become the police chief.
“You don’t know how they’re going to work out,” she said. “You don’t hire them under the pretense that they’re guaranteed to take over.”
Bani said the purpose of hiring a captain wouldn’t be to train that person for two years to take over as the police chief, but rather to have a supervisory position as in the past with a lieutenant, which the department doesn’t have any more.
“I said it would be a natural progression to move him there, if in fact he’s qualified to take this position,” he said. “If he’s not, than you’d be looking at hiring a chief.”
Village Administrator Aaron Kramer cautioned the board against characterizing the hiring of a captain as possibly being intended to “groom” someone to be the next chief, something the village would not be able to guarantee.
“We should not continue to use that term ‘groom,’” he said. “I’m looking at it right now, from a structural standpoint. If something happens to (the police chief) tomorrow, who runs our police department?”
The board favored having an officer be promoted to sergeant within the department at an hourly rate of $34, an increase of $1.85 per hour, which could take effect this year and would have a six-month probationary period.
Upon approval of the sergeant’s position by the Lawrence town board, Bani said he would recommend an officer for promotion to the police commission.
Kramer said the 2021 budget he will present for approval by the board will separately list a captain’s position for possible inclusion.