Police officers announce departures (4/22/10)

April 22, 2010

By Greg Duggan

Observer staff

The Williston Police Department, already considered understaffed, is losing two more officers.

Officers Greg Shelley and Jamin Whitehead submitted letters of resignation earlier this month.

Whitehead’s final day with the department was Wednesday. Shelley will work through May 7.

“I am leaving the police department to pursue other endeavors and continue my education,” Shelley wrote in his letter of resignation.

Whitehead accepted a position as a law enforcement specialist with Homeland Security in Williston. He said in his letter that he starts the new job on Sunday.

Town Manager Rick McGuire informed the Selectboard of the resignations on Monday evening. He said Shelley had been with the department for four years, and Whitehead had served for six years.

The town recently eliminated a police officer position from the municipal budget. The department will also lose a full-time officer for several months in August when he attends the police academy for training.

McGuire and Detective Mike Lavoie, who serves as president of the Williston Police Officers Association, have said in recent months that the department is understaffed.

Acting Chief Doug Hoyt, who joined the police department this month, agreed. Hoyt said the latest resignations were expected. He had started to review staffing levels when he came to Williston, and has posted job openings online.

“I’m totally confident we’ll see any number of good applications, but it is a long process,” Hoyt said.

He encouraged anyone interested in becoming a police officer to check the town Web site, www.town.williston.vt.us, and the Williston Police Web site, town.williston.vt.us/police/, for more information.

Until new officers are hired, however, Hoyt plans to explore several options for ensuring police coverage throughout Williston. Options include hiring part-time officers and modifying shift assignments. McGuire cited changes in the flow of casework and temporary regional support as other options.

“I think by the end of the month we’ll have something that works for us,” Hoyt said.

Turnover in the police department has been an ongoing problem. The department has positions for 14 full-time officers, Hoyt said. McGuire estimated the turnover rate at 20 percent or 25 percent annually, typically among the officer level.

McGuire said that in a smaller department like Williston, officers have limited options to advance and therefore seek higher level positions with other organizations. Furthermore, the department has not had a full-time chief since former Chief Jim Dimmick suffered a stroke in 2008. McGuire hopes that finding a permanent chief will create more stability for the police force.

A hiring committee conducted interviews last week, and has narrowed the number of potential candidates to three. The town wants to have a chief in place by July 1.

“I think there’s a number of steps we can take when we get a permanent chief in that would lead to a lowering of the turnover rate,” McGuire said.