Oberlin PD Restructures Force

Louis Krauss, News Editor

City Council unanimously approved the Oberlin Police Department’s plans to restructure its format by increasing the number of sergeants and reducing the number of lieutenants last Monday. The revision calls for the increase from three to four sergeants and the reduction from two to one lieutenants.

Sergeants typically only work night shifts, but the change would create a daytime shift for one of the sergeants. The plan would also allow new officers to work closely with sergeants in a mentorship and training program. Chief of Police Juan Torres, who joined the Oberlin Police Department last August, said he believes the restructuring is a needed adjustment.

“I had to bounce [the idea] off the staff and community to make sure it’s something that fits,” Torres said. “However, I feel that four sergeants is very necessary, especially for assigning officers to sergeants, who are really our official leaders and can show them the ropes.”

Torres touted the importance of the extra sergeant position, as they can take on additional tasks during the day. This work includes managing the Lorain County Jail and the Oberlin Municipal Court, and taking requests from other law enforcement agencies.

The most significant difference between the sergeant and lieutenant positions is that lieutenants spend the majority of their time in the office as policy makers, working with the police chief and other city officials. Former Lieutenant Kevin Scalli retired on Sept. 15 after 25 years with the Oberlin Police Department, and the department has not yet decided who will replace him.

“We typically are the busiest during the day,” Torres said. “One thing I want to have is a sergeant available, so we don’t always have to call on the lieutenants who might be working on something else at the moment.”

Lieutenant Michael McCloskey will be filling the lone lieutenant role when the changes go into effect, likely in early 2016. McCloskey said that he is looking forward to the possibility of reduced office stress.

“Before, if an officer requested assistance around town from a supervisor with more of a leadership position, usually it would be me or Lieutenant Scalli who would have to leave … the department to help out,” McCloskey said. “One nice thing is, by having more sergeants, and one during the day, it will probably take a bit of the load off of my role.”

In addition to the new sergeant position, Torres suggested to City Council that Oberlin’s residential area be divided into four sections. Each sergeant would be assigned a quadrant to patrol as well as time to assess the neighborhood’s individual needs. These could include community building and evaluating what crimes are particularly common to each part of town.

Torres proposed that each sergeant leads three officers in their quadrant, but that all officers remain available to assist elsewhere. He said that he hopes to finalize this plan by December.

City Councilman Bryan Burgess said that while there has not been an urgent need to change the policing system, he understands City Council must allow Torres to design his own structure.

“I’m willing to try it,” Burgess said. “I think the jury is still out since Oberlin is so small. I don’t tend to think of Oberlin [as] four quadrants, especially since the College takes up a big part of the area. He’s new to the job, but if he wants to try it out, I’m game for it. It’s not like things have been going badly.”

The final details on the Department’s restructuring have yet to be finalized, although Torres said he hopes administrative changes will take effect this February.