Hudson Police Dept. loses sergeant in budget processIt was not an easy decision to make but Hudson Police Chief Marty Jensen said cuts to his department’s budget left him few choices. In order to meet budget requirements set by the city of Hudson, Jensen said the department will not continue to have a detective sergeant
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
It was not an easy decision to make but Hudson Police Chief Marty Jensen said cuts to his department’s budget left him few choices.
In order to meet budget requirements set by the city of Hudson, Jensen said the department will not continue to have a detective sergeant. He made the move in order to fill the lieutenant’s position vacated by the retirement of Paul Larson last fall. He received approval for the move at Monday’s City Council meeting.
Jensen said his annual budget of $2.9 million was already very tight from austerity measures taken over the last several years. To meet the goal this year could have meant layoffs and cuts in police services. But Jensen took an alternative approach made possible by Larson’s departure.
Like other City of Hudson departments, the HPD had to make a significant cut in its budget to meet the City Council’s mandate of no budget increases in the coming year. And with increases in the cost of health insurance and other benefits, the department had to trim its budget by $120,000.
Jensen describes the move as a re-organization, one that is the best for the department and the public under the current budget restraints. It brings the HPD from 23 full-time officers to 22.
The detective sergeant position is currently held by Eric Atkinson. The HPD also has three patrol sergeants — Glen Hartman, Jason Muenich and Brad Kusmirek. Atkinson supervises two detectives as well as working on investigations himself. Jensen said that while he sees the position as an important and necessary one in the department, the duties of the job could be more “easily absorbed” by the lieutenant whose duties will include supervision of the detectives.
The HPD lieutenant’s job was created in 2004 and the position is first in line under the chief of police. Jensen said maintaining the command structure along with keeping as many officers on the street as possible influenced his decision.
“The lieutenant can take on more of the administrative responsibilities of the patrol sergeants which frees them up to do more on the street. It is also important to have someone who can take command if necessary and who knows what is going on throughout the department,” said Jensen.
Jensen said the loss of the investigative position will have consequences. Investigations have been increasing over the last several years, four percent in the last year, and with one less person on the team, it will take longer and cases will have to be prioritized.
“We have had some very labor intensive cases over the last few years — the Valley Cartage case, home invasions, drug overdoses and some fairly complicated financial crimes like the Willow River Parent Group theft. Sometimes investigators have to drop whatever they are doing to get on something right away. The guys are usually working on several cases simultaneously and the work takes time,” said Jensen.
He expects that patrol officers will be more involved in some investigations in order to take up the slack. Jensen said that he hopes to reinstate the detective sergeant position in the future.
Jensen said that he expects to fill the lieutenant’s job sometime after the first of the year. Two of the four sergeants in the department have already applied for the position. They are being screened and interviewed by an independent panel including a sheriff and two other police chiefs from the surrounding communities.
Jensen said the department is evaluating all of its programs and expenses and he expects that they will be looking for outside sources including grants to help fund the department’s needs.
Despite lean times, Jensen said the department has continued to make improvements like the restart of the police canine program and the installation of computers in squad cars which have dramatically impacted the amount of paperwork for officers. The department has also secured important tactical equipment like shields, helmets and less lethal weapons that have improved the department’s tactical response.
He will continue to maintain a prominent profile in the community. He expects to continue the Citizen Police Academy, and to encourage the HPD’s involvement in organizations like Youth Action Hudson, the St. Croix Underage Drinking Coalition, Hudson High School Homecoming committee, the Salvation Army and area food shelves.
For more information, contact the HPD at (715) 386-4771.