Killeen is a step closer to finding a new police chief.
Interim Police Chief Margaret Young has been in the position temporarily since October when former Chief Dennis Baldwin left the department to become interim city manager and then assistant city manager.
Chris Hartung Consulting Services, based in the Fort Worth suburb of Euless, will draft the job posting and develop marketing materials for a position anticipated to formally open in about two to three weeks, according to city spokeswoman Hilary Shine.
The cost to the city is $10,000 plus expenses.
Texas law and city purchasing policy require expenditures above $50,000 to be competitively bid and approved by the City Council. Because the cost is below that, the city manager can authorize it.
Young, who is effectively the city’s first female chief, has not applied for the position because it is not yet open, and is undecided if she will apply for the permanent job, she said in an email.
A variety of challenges, both outside and inside the police department, face whoever accepts the duty.
“I would say that (city finances) is quite impacting as we manage through this difficult time we are currently facing,” Young said. “It impacts morale, equipment, training, hiring, staffing and most facets of operations. As we manage through this period, I’m sure we will have a clearer outlook as to the future.”
The salary range for the position is $80,652 to $132,324 annually with the same benefits as noncivil service city employees, such as health, dental and retirement.
Baldwin was paid $12,974.88 per month, or about $155,698 annually.
Candidates’ names will be made public when finalists are identified, and “the position will be filled when the best qualified candidate is selected and accepts the position,” Shine said.
Proprietor Chris Hartung, who has more than 30 years in executive search and has completed three previous searches for police chiefs at other cities, said he wrapped up interviews with Killeen Police Department staff Thursday.
Hartung could not share exactly what police are looking for in a new chief, because the promotional material is not yet created and the information is not yet public, but a draft is expected to be delivered to the city next week.
Within 10 days to two weeks, that will be finalized and then posted online, he said.
Hartung will then conduct his own outreach and networking to potential applicants, and that could take another 30 days.
THE DOTTED LINE
Rising violent crime in Killeen is just one piece of the puzzle that a new chief will need to address.
Another is employee morale and officer retention.
The police department fights attrition through financial incentives and advancement opportunities, but Young said at least three officers have resigned since July, citing higher salary needs.
Probationary police officers for up to the first 18 months of employment are considered noncivil service staff, and are paid from the General Pay Plan.
Entry-level pay is $21.60 per hour, $3,743.33 monthly or about $44,920 annually.
After the probation period, officers are paid from the Police Pay Plan, which begins at $4,071 monthly or $48,851 per year.
By comparison, entry-level Georgetown police make more at $51,542 per year.
Other reasons for leaving the department have varied: one left for military service; eight recently retired; and some were unable to finish the training process or chose not to do so, Young said.
The city burns about $75,000 to bring a new officer online, including benefits, equipment, salary, and psychological and medical exams, she said.
It does not include allowances for recruiting and advertising costs, time spent on background checks, oral interview boards, fitness tests, academy supplies, academy instructors’ time or field training officers’ time.
To stem premature departures, some police departments have added language to employment contracts that require recruits to serve a minimum amount of time or face a penalty.
The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, for example, provides training at no cost to the trainee and a living allowance, but requires four years of service.
If the officer resigns and takes a job with another law enforcement agency within a year, the employee must pay back a portion of training costs and allowance.
The total living allowance subject to reimbursement is $17,569, which is reduced based on time served.
If an employee owes money to the department, that amount can be deducted from the last paycheck.
Furthermore, “if the recruit fails to pay all monies owed within six months of resignation, interest shall be charged at a rate of 9 percent compounded monthly on all monies still owing after six months after resignation.”
The Killeen Police Department does not require that commitment, although it has been considered in the past, Young said.
“It was decided against to help keep the department competitive in recruiting,” she added.
The police department is at 91 percent capacity (255 of 280) of sworn positions, and fewer than half (49 of 103) nonsworn positions are filled.