The Casper police department will continue implementing recommendations next year drawn from an outside review of the organization commissioned in April.
V.H. McDonald, who was city manager at the time, proposed the report to complement the development of the department’s five-year plan. Shortly after, McDonald unexpectedly announced his retirement and his interim replacement terminated police chief Jim Wetzel’s contract after internal turmoil at the department became public.
Casper City Council then gave an outside company the go-ahead to complete a review of the police department.
“I feel it is our responsibility to clean up this mess that has come to light,” Councilwoman Amanda Huckabay said in voting to approve the nearly $35,000 expenditure. “It is not admirable of us to bring in a new city manager into a mess we created and expect them to clean it up. I think that’s our responsibility.”
The contractor handling the review, the Center for Public Safety Management, delivered the report in October and the city manager’s office released it to the public Oct. 27.
The report that came back was largely complementary, noting that police department staff indicated they “have noted positive changes in the department” since a leadership change in May, an apparent reference to Wetzel’s ousting.
Among other suggestions, the report recommended further training of supervisors, clearing a backlog of accumulated evidence and hiring part-time staffers to help out in an overworked emergency dispatch center. The report also recommended filling patrol officer positions and promoting officers to fill gaps in the command structure.
According to the report, the police department does not train all supervising officers to investigate allegations of officer misconduct. As a result, certain officers may be saddled with minor investigations that they are not trained to conduct.
Lt. Shane Chaney said in November the department was working on having all supervising officers trained in conducting internal investigations, but funding issues have stood in the way.
The police department also accumulates evidence more quickly than it can be disposed of, according to the report, meaning that the department will have to rapidly purge evidence or be forced to expand its storage facilities. The department already has six storage facilities at three different city properties.
Casper’s emergency dispatch center faces a similar problem as others across Wyoming: It’s hard to maintain recommended staffing levels at such facilities.
City Manager Carter Napier said the stress of the work made hiring dispatchers difficult.
“Dispatchers are among the toughest positions to hire,” he said in early November.
Napier has said that he is unsure which or how many recommendations made by the report will be put into practice. The recommendations made in the report are non-binding and will only be implemented at the discretion of city and police officials.
Napier took over as city manager in May, after the report was commissioned. Napier said repeatedly in the lead up to the review’s release that it would serve as a useful dataset for the then-unnamed new chief to draw upon.
Keith McPheeters, who was named police chief Dec. 11, said he plans to implement the suggestions set forth in the report. He declined to specify what recommendations were priorities for the department.
Some of suggestions have already been implemented: Two officers were recently promoted to sergeant, and a sergeant to lieutenant, filling gaps in the command structure as recommended by the review.