Dewey commissioners tackle police department findings

Moskowitz: start search for new police chief
August 26, 2019

Based on a recent review of Dewey Beach Police Department, Dewey commissioners sought to prioritize recommendations while one commissioner called for a new police chief.

At council’s Aug. 9 meeting, Commissioner David Moskowitz said the report cited concerns about the police chief’s effectiveness, leadership and management practices, citing no formal on-call schedule, no formal training for dispatchers and a manual last updated in 2008.

Moskowitz then called for the town manager to place an ad for a police chief and for the town to start looking for one.

Town Manager Scott Koenig interrupted, “We need to stop this conversation right here because you’ve just crossed the line again.”

Town counsel Fred Townsend said personnel issues are to be dealt with in executive session; Moskowitz suggested an executive session. Commissioner Paul Bauer said he was aghast at Moskowitz’s comments; Mayor TJ Redefer called them outrageous. 

Moskowitz made a motion to change the agenda to prioritize report recommendations first, but his motion failed. 

When discussion began on voting to authorize consultant Gregory Warren to update the police manual, Commissioner Dale Cooke said he would vote affirmatively, but said a strategic plan and priorities were needed.

“I hope that we not continue to take it piecemeal,” Cooke said. “We should have an entire list of what the recommendations were and ask the town manager to put dates next to those recommendations about when they will be started to be worked on, when they expect to end, and who is responsible for it.”

Commissioner Gary Persinger said Moskowitz wanted the agenda revised so commissioners could understand priorities first; but Redefer said he wanted to discuss the manual first.

“This was critically important for our liability as a town to make sure we have a proper police manual now,” Redefer said. “The discussion of the rest of the items from Dr. Warren’s report comes next for me.”

Persinger said, “That’s for you. You made the decision for the rest of us, which is not the appropriate way to do things.”

“Yes, I wrote the agenda,” Redefer said. “The mayor writes the agenda.”

Town Manager Scott Koenig said the police manual was cut and pasted together from other manuals. He said it should be rewritten to include current local, state and national standards with input from the police department. 

Moskowitz and Persinger said they wanted the revised manual integrated with Lexipol, the police training software system. They said Lexipol, which cost the town about $12,000, was not being used sufficiently. Redefer said the police department was understaffed, and the officer who was managing Lexipol is now on the road.

Commissioner Paul Bauer motioned to authorize the manual revision at a cost of $5,610.

Moskowitz said Warren’s revision is a one-time update. He asked for an amendment to put the manual on Lexipol, which gives updates every month, so the manual can be updated in the future, and officers receive timely training, but the motion passed as stated.

When commissioners next discussed prioritizing report findings, Redefer said he wanted town staff to review the report and make recommendations to commissioners so they can hold public workshops.

Persinger said he wasn’t sure about workshops because commissioners have to meet in public anyway. “Warren did provide us a prioritized list of findings. I would ask that those be considered as an initial starting point.”

Commissioners also discussed recording dispatch lines at a cost of $14,000. Redefer said 911 calls go to the 911 center in Rehoboth and are recorded. When the call is transferred to the Dewey dispatch line, 911 personnel stay on the line until they determine the call is not an emergency.

Redefer said he recommended recording, although many small towns do not record. Koenig agreed; he said recording conversations protects employees from complaints.

“We have an issue because now it’s gotten wrapped up in the Warren report,” Cooke also said. “We have not asked for, nor have we ourselves, formally prioritized what needs to be done under the Warren report. This is part and parcel to the police department, and I think should be prioritized with everything else done under the Warren report.”

Bauer’s motion to table the vote passed.

Persinger’s new motion for Koenig to contact jurisdictions that do and do not record nonemergency lines for feedback, and to ask Warren for input, passed unanimously.

In related business, Koenig said he will hire Warren to provide de-escalation training in response to officers’ request for more training, at a cost of $1,140.

Moskowitz reiterated his call for a new police chief in an Aug. 14 e-newsletter.

“I believe at this point change is urgently needed,” Moskowitz wrote. “Some of these failures were brought up in the $300,000 Walton report. Two years later, the town now has another report, with more failures. With the police chief's contract closer to expiration and a potential retirement looming, the town needs to start the search for a new police chief.”

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