Ocean View council, chief discuss police title bumps

The Ocean View Town Council held its monthly workshop on Aug. 23 to discuss replacing the 2010 Police Department Organizational Chart with new organizational structure.

“What we’re looking at is to make some modifications to the titles,” said Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin. “This is a title change only. There is no associated pay increase.”

In the proposed organizational chart, officers currently serving as sergeants would be known as captains. Officers with the title of shift supervisor would become sergeants.

Patrol officers would become corporals, and patrol officers would be officers.

McLaughlin said that, in lieu of a pay raise, the title change would provide a morale boost to the officers in his department.

Councilman Bob Lawless expressed some concern for how title changes could affect uniformity to other departments.

“When we say a person will be a captain in a police agency, does that in police agency parlance indicate one of a kind of people that has greater responsibilities and more reach and larger numbers of people reporting to them?”

“The responsibilities for each of the officers doesn’t change,” responded McLaughlin. “There won’t be any change to the other organizational components, other than the title.”

He added that, when his department does staffing studies, responsibilities of the officers would be compared to others of similar responsibilities and not by titles.

Councilman Tom Sheeran said that his experience with staffing studies has been that they look at duties of the individual position and their performance in relation to the whole department.

McLaughlin added that the change in titles would put his department in similar terms as neighboring police departments.

“If we took off Ocean View – instead of calling a captain a captain, we’d call him a lieutenant, and we’d have Bethany Beach.”

Resident George Pickrell, who formerly served as a police officer in Montgomery County, Md., said that morale is a hard thing to keep elevated, and he recommended instead an incentive program.

“I would suggest that we do a tuition-assistance program, where the officers can go to school, the town pays for their education or reimburses them for their education. Let’s say they take a class and they get an A – we reimburse them for 100 percent of the class. B – 80 percent. C – 50 percent. If they get anything below a C, it’s on them.”

He also recommended that if the officers obtain a degree while in the department, that the town could provide a bonus or permanent pay raise, in varying grades, depending on the degree they earn.

“That way we have a better-educated police department, they can work toward something and they’re reaching a goal. That boosts morale. I know it costs money, but it’s well worth it.”

Resident Joe Fedick said he, too, was concerned by the proposed titles.

“My biggest concern is it seems like we’ve got a lot of chiefs and no Indians. What’s to stop these guys, once they become a captain or a lieutenant or a sergeant, from going somewhere else and putting their name in and saying, ‘Hey, I’m a lieutenant in Ocean View. I see you’re advertising for a lieutenant position.’ It sounds funny to me. It doesn’t make sense.”

Resident Bill Wichmann said he was in favor of the title changes and looked at it as an “excellent opportunity.”

I come from the military, and there is a tremendous amount of pride in having the rank, earning the rank, displaying the rank. It’s not costing us anything. It’s a great morale booster. Let’s do it.”

McLaughlin told council that the idea was one brought to him by his men and that he hoped that they would consider it.

“This is just a way we can do something for the guys… They would much rather have the money than the stripe.”

“It was nice to know that it was the officers that brought this up,” noted Councilwoman Michele Steffens.

The council this week also discussed the West View Drainage Project and prioritizing future repairs. The project, which was broken up into four sections, has three portions left to be completed.

Public Works Director Charlie McMullen said that the area from Kent Avenue to New Castle Court still retains water, but not what he would classify as a significant amount.

“It is my personal opinion that if we were to do this area and make it a nonissue, I think that most of the other areas would drain,” he said, adding that, from the completed phase of the project, areas of Sussex Drive have already improved. “At this point, I think [the drainage issues there] are minimal.”

McMullen said that Kercher Engineering gave the town estimated costs for both pipe and ditch options. To complete all three phases with drainage ditches would cost the town an estimated $188,235.20. It would cost about $347,697.60 for drainage pipes.

McMullen said he would recommend the drainage pipes, which would be a combination storm sewers and stone trenches. “If I were going to do this, I would look at piping.”

Lawless asked for a recommendation as to what area should be worked on next.

“The question, I think, is we have X dollars we can spend on drainage per year. Is this what we’re going to spend it on?”

The council plans to make a decision on the issue at their October meeting.