Friday, March 28, 2008

Akron Police collaboration mirrors military operations in Iraq ..

As I watch tape of this morning's press conference held by Mayor Plusquellic and Summit Sheriff Drew Alexander, I'm trying to just let it soak in .. but my first response is that this mirrors relationships I went through during my tour in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

First, today's announcement ... let me map it this way:

a) Deputy Mayor for Public Safety George Romanoski leaves his official post to work full-time overseeing the 9-1-1 center to include the long-term planning and development of regional 9-1-1 operations.

That makes sense given his expertise in that area ..

b) Former Akron Police Chief Larry Givens takes Romanoski's job as Deputy Mayor for Public Safety.

Wow .. never thought I'd see Givens at City Hall again .. or Plusquellic hire a Republican as Deputy Mayor ... but ok .. i'm certainly listening now ..

c) Givens will focus solely on the Akron Police Department while Fire and EMS will now report directly to the Mayor.

okkaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay ... what does that mean to the current ..

d) Givens will be loaned out to work with the Sheriff's Office (a place he used to work as Deputy Sheriff) for a period of 18 months to study ways for the two police agencies to work together to police Akron, share resources, save money, and while Akron officers won't be policing outside the city limits, deputies might be used to patrol Akron streets.

Wow ... okay ... so then what does that mean to ...

e) Summit County Sheriff Drew Alexander is now at the top of the chain of command for the Akron Police Department ...

Go, whoa, hold it! Who is doing what, where, and with whom?

f) Changes to take effect April 14th ...

sighhhhhhhhhhhh ... deep breath ..................... let me get this straight ....

Like most folks, this is taking me a few minutes to absorb.

Sharing resources in a way that saves money and deploys officers in a way that catches more bad guys and keeps us safer makes a lot of sense .. and if anybody has the experience and relationship to make that work it's Larry Givens and Drew Alexander. Both are former APD officer (Givens was chief from 1992-96) and both know the Sheriff's office inside and out (Alexander is Sheriff and Givens was his deputy sheriff for several years). I don't think anyone will argue that those goals involving these experienced officers is worth exploring.

Givens will report to Alexander every day but Givens doesn't work for Alexander. Givens will be an appointed city employee and therefor ultimately works for the citizens of Akron and Mayor Plusquellic.

When I was deployed in the war, we did this all the time. All the time.

The technical term was Opcon which stood for Operational Control. For a period of time, troops from different units and even different branches (Army, Air Force, Marines, etc...) would be opcon to different leaders who became their operational chain of command for a period of time.

In some cases, our troops were opcon to other units for the duration of their tours in the combat zone. For example, a lieutenant colonel under my unit's command spent all of his training time preparing to run our unit's intelligence section ... but once we got to the war zone, he was sent to Bagdad to assume a different role with our higher command because he could be better utilized in that role. He reported to a different boss every day and took his marching orders. Still, even though he was opcon to another commander, he was always on my unit's books .. and always in touch with my unit commander. We always held the ultimate responsibility for his well being and could have pulled him back . . just as Plusquellic can do here with Givens.

Sharing resources was a must to succeed in the dessert. There were times that we had units from other countries opcon to our US commanders for periods of time. I could give a great many examples of specific operations, but trust me, it's how business got done .. and as long as leaders didn't abuse their power, it worked well. US forces always had a US commander at the top of their chain of command.

I see the same thing here involving APD and the Sheriff's Office as it's presented. Givens will be opcon to Alexander. Givens will report to him daily to talk about police operations, and Alexander will have the burden of making operational decisions in the best interest of both agencies. At any time, Givens' official commander -- Plusquellic -- can call off the relationship.

What I don't see is how Akron's Police Chief fits in to the equation. Regardless of whether current Chief Michael Matulavich is in that role after his contract expires at the end of the year, the chief will no longer be king of his castle. He or she will no longer have full say in how Akron's officers are utilized and deployed. While on paper, the Chief has always reported to the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, this new relationship -- where the deputy mayor now is more active in managing the Chief's officers -- is going to take time to massage.

Still, I'm trying to take it all in .. and wondering how it will be received by Akron's finest who are sure to make an issue of county officers possibly helping to patrol the city streets, when city officers still can't live elsewhere in the county.


Anonymous said...

All I can say is WOW! Will be interesting to listen to our friends in the trenches talk about this new wrinkle. Would love to have been inside the mayor's head as he worked on this one!


Anonymous said...

Just wondering: if the alternative universe police command reports directly to the mayor without the check and balance of answering to council are we taking the military mirroring a tad too deep?

Interesting questions to work on answers to...especially in reorganizaing a police force around a police chief. If the department were in that much trouble why not push the chief harder out the door?

Eric Mansfield said...

That's up to you to determine .. but to me, it's a parallel I drew. Having served in Iraq and as an Army MP for 10 years, I can empathize with both scenerios. Have you served in either capacity?

While it's no secret that the Mayor wishes Matulavich were gone sooner than later, there's more to this decision than just the clash between Don and Mike. This plan -- at least as it's presented -- is also aimed at sharing resources and, in the mayor's words "putting more officers on Akron's streets" .. meaning deputies would, at times, be working on Akron's streets, which they already have the authority to do.

I'm not sure that either department will initially see this as a good idea .. so Givens, Alexander, and Plusquellic have to sell it .. what works in their favor is how well respected both Givens and Alexander are.

vanillacokehead said...

I see it as an idea worth exploring. A similar arrangement was made in Mississippi earlier this year when the Hinds County sheriff was also appointed the chief of the Jackson Police Department.

Having "metro" law enforcement works in larger areas like Las Vegas and Nashville. It's worth pursuing in Akron and Summit County.

Anonymous said...

I'll still be interested in what the "troops" have to say, particularly the Akron force. Have we heard "officially" from Paul Hylinsky (sp?)?

Warner said...

Our opcon is defined by the Charter. Check out section 68.