National search for police chief under way
City leaders have begun the national search for a new chief of the Lawrence Police Department.
City Manager David Corliss said the recruitment is open, and the application deadline is Dec. 6. The city is seeking to replace longtime chief Ron Olin, who retired from the city in August and became director of security and internal controls for Kansas Athletics Inc.
Corliss hopes to have the new chief in place before the end of the year and has selected Tarik Khatib, a captain and 18-year department veteran, to serve as interim chief. The city manager said he wanted to open up a nationwide search for the position, but he also has said he expected several internal candidates to do well in the process. Khatib has said he would be interested in the permanent position.
According to the job description, qualifications include nine years of “increasingly responsible experience in municipal police work,” including at least four years in administration and management. The department has an operating budget of $14.2 million, and the city’s 2011 budget authorizes 142 officers and about 41 civilian staff members.
The Lawrence Police Department is using a recruitment tactic it hasn’t tried in several years, all in an effort to get more officers on the streets.
The department is seeking to hire five certified officers with at least two years of experience on another police force.
Often, Lawrence police recruits are new to the profession. They undergo a 23-week academy conducted by the local department, plus they are paired up with experienced officers for several weeks when initially they begin patrolling the streets.
But interim Police Chief Tarik Khatib said attrition can greatly affect staffing levels in between academies, and he said the department needed to be innovative to replace officers who leave.
“At least for the positions we are authorized for, we ought to do our best to keep those as fully staffed as possible,” he said.
The department last took this approach to hire experienced officers in 2001, he said. The plan is for this class of five officers to be able to start working at full capacity sooner than new recruits. The more experienced group will complete a shorter local academy.
During an interview Friday, Khatib said that the force through attrition loses an average of nine officers a year and that right now the department is basically operating at 20 percent below the number of patrol officers city leaders have authorized in the budget.
Until the recent crop of nine September police academy graduates are able to begin patrolling on their own and the five experienced officers are hired, current officers are asked to work extra hours, which can take a toll over time.
Khatib said the public likely won’t notice the shortage when police respond to significant events, such as injury accidents or major crimes, including shootings, sexual assaults and homicide investigations.
But he said having fewer patrol officers on a shift means it might take longer to respond to certain calls or that fewer criminals could be caught in the act. It can affect how the department can respond to crowds at Kansas University games or control traffic, such as for a half-marathon.
But he’s hopeful that hiring more experienced officers will speed up the training process because these officers instead would only need to be trained on things specific to Lawrence instead of starting with the basics.
“What we’re trying to do is close that gap by hiring as quickly as possible,” Khatib said, “without sacrificing the quality of the hires.”