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Gering considers police department options
February 21, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

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With the Gering Police Department between chiefs, some city council members are asking what changes can make the department more efficient.

Currently, two captains serve under the chief – one for investigations and the other for patrol officers. A sergeant is also on duty for every shift.

Council member Julie Morrison said she’s not sure whether the department needs two captains, or how a restructured department should look. However, retiring police chief Mel Griggs said the current system is working effectively.
Morrison and fellow council member Jill McFarland met with Griggs to brainstorm whether changes were needed.
“All I want to say is maybe we should stop and think how we can restructure the police department,” Morrison said. “We still have a lot more talking to do before anything transpires. We need to come up with the option that’s most beneficial to the public and the best financial idea for the department.”

McFarland said that because Gering’s two captains have two separate roles, keeping that arrangement might be best for the department. During their meeting with Griggs, they discussed the possibility of adding a late evening to early morning shift to improve coverage.
“I understand the position for chief will be advertised internally first,” she said. “We’d only go outside of we can’t find someone qualified within the department. But Mel assured us there are some excellent people that could easily step into the role of chief.”
Gering Mayor Ed Mayo said the city is just getting started on the process of replacing Chief Griggs and they’re in no hurry.

“All options are open,” Mayo said. “I’d like to see a promotion from within the department.
That way we can keep some continuity as the new chief will already be familiar with the procedures.”
Scottsbluff is in a similar position of having no police chief after Alex Moreno resigned last year. The two vacancies led their City Manager, Rick Kuckkahn, to again address the possibility of consolidating the two cities’ police departments. He said it was just a discussion item for his city council.

The possible consolidation of the two departments was being considered for much of 2010. Gering residents were concerned over a lack of police identity and whether any savings would be realized.
The consolidation was heavily discussed during the 2010 campaign for Gering mayor, which was won by Mayo. One of his campaign promises was to put an end to any potential consolidation, which was one of his first official duties.

Mayo said the only way he could possibly support any kind of merger is if county-wide law enforcement were implemented, including the county sheriff and all towns in the county. He said he would be against any consolidation of just Gering and Scottsbluff.
“I think we’ll leave things just the way they are,” Morrison said. “That’s what the citizens wanted.”

McFarland said she found Kuckkahn’s comment “interesting” but the residents of Gering haven’t changed their minds. “I don’t know about the other seven council members, but I can guarantee I would not support any discussion regarding consolidation. I’m confident it wouldn’t get a majority vote from the council.”

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