New police chief plans future
by MATTHEW NASH
New Sequim Police Chief Bill Dickinson, 60, said it's been an easy transition since starting two months ago.
"Police work is police work wherever you go," Dickinson said. "What changes is the community and personnel."
Dickinson, who is entering his 40th year in law enforcement, still finds joy in meeting new people.
To get to know the community, he's attended several nonprofit groups' events, civic club meetings, fundraisers and sporting events, and he plans to do much more.
Steve Burkett, Sequim city manager, said Dickinson has exceeded his expectations.
"He's been meeting with people in the community and getting to know them and police officers, responding to some calls for service and learning a lot about our operations," Burkett said. "One of the most important things is having him develop a good relationship in the (police) department."
Dickinson won the position over 60 candidates and five finalists, including Lt. Sheri Crain, who remains second in command with Sequim Police.
"Sheri is essential," Dickinson said. "First and foremost she has a work history here and intimate knowledge. I probably barrage her with questions."
While working with other officers, Dickinson is keeping his ears open for suggestions and thoughts from staff.
"(Officers) are aware it's a tough economy," Dickinson said. "They've suggested a few ideas for reducing costs and making things more efficient. We're all trying to keep the level of service high and making citizens feel safe."
Dickinson, who was hired in the middle of the budget planning process, said the police budget proposal is about $14,500 less than in 2010.
"It's a challenge any time you are finding reductions in a budget you've never looked at before," he said.
The budget is about $2.4 million - the biggest in the city - mostly for salaries for 21.5 full- and part-time employees, including a proposed 2-percent pay increase for officers. Dickinson said the increase is due to officers making less than those in similarly sized and staffed cities.
He doesn't anticipate any immediate full-time staff reductions but the said the department won't be upgrading any vehicles and will begin limiting overtime pay.
"Bottom line is we're holding a flat level of service while reducing very little," Dickinson said. "I think we're doing pretty well."
Burkett said he supports Dickinson's recommendations but the final decision on the budget comes from the city council.
Not ready for retirement
Dickinson retired once from law enforcement but wasn't ready to give it up.
"I love my job and the people I work with," he said, "I'm not old enough for Social Security, either. This is what I've always done. I'm a lucky guy because every day is different."
Dickinson works a maximum of four weeks or 160 hours a month because if he were to go full time, his current pension would be reduced. "Some people have a misconception I'm just working 20 hours a week."
Burkett said the situation is fairly common in the law enforcement pension system because many police officers begin at a young age.
Burkett said the restricted hours don't impact operations.
When Dickinson retires as Sequim police chief, he will not receive retirement from the city.
Dickinson finished the budget and presented his proposal to the city council on Monday, Nov. 8.
The council only had questions about maintained training for officers and improving the volunteer force.
Dickinson's also developed a new staff discipline policy set for tentative approval with the Teamsters Union at the end of the year. he said the actual discipline process would change and give more options for action with mediation with someone not in the department.
A new work schedule also is being planned.
"I need to take our most precious staffing and assign it as best possible," he said.
Dickinson plans to revisit the strategic plan former chief Bob Spinks developed.
He will review the "guiding principles" of the plan and determine the best avenues to explore for the next five years.
"We're not starting things new but refreshing projects Spinks and Byron (Nelson, former chief) started," he said.
"There are a lot of good things going on with this department. I've inherited a really good staff," Dickinson said. "They keep a positive attitude and I'm extremely pleased with their professionalism."
He intends to meet with city staff and other agencies about an emergency management plan for things such as earthquakes and tsunamis. A long-term goal is to go through the Sequim Police Department policy manual and propose possible changes. If time and budget allow, he'll work on accreditation of the department.
In the next five years, he hopes to help plan for a new police station, too.
Bill Dickinson can be reached at 683-7227 or by visiting 609 W. Washington St., Suite 16.
Reach Matthew Nash at email@example.com.