By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers
LINCOLN PARK – There’s a new chief in town, although he’s held the position on an interim basis since Police Chief Brian Hawk had taken medical leave in November. Hawk confirmed last month that he would retire, effective June 30, and city officials said interim chief Lt. Ray Watters officially assumed the command July 1.
“Chief Hawk retired when his contract expired,” Emergency Manager Brad Coulter said. “Ray Watters will step up and be the chief.”
Coulter said the transition had been as smooth as expected, as Watters had been managing the department for several months and has been acting chief through most of the state-mandated period of emergency management.
Hawk, who’d spent six years as a K-9 handler, had been appointed chief in January 2014 after serving as interim chief since the October 2012 retirement of Thomas Karnes, former chief now serving as the city’s mayor.
In lieu of adding personnel to the staff – which Coulter said is at 38 as it was when he took office last year – the department has explored ways to maximize its resources.
“We’re definitely under-manned,” Coulter said. “We don’t have the capacity to add more now but we could use three or four more on the road.”
To balance any shortages the city obtained a state grant for a crime-mapping program in conjunction with Wayne State University, which provides police with an understanding of where they might be needed.
“Every two weeks we meet and map out the hot spots,” Coulter said of crime reports as presented on a city map. “We can add patrols and code enforcement to those areas. There’s more that the city can do besides just adding to the police department.”
Coulter said Hawk – who’d spent more than 23 years on the force – and Watters, with 20-plus years of service, reflect an admirable level of commitment to a struggling city.
“We’ve got a lot of very dedicated people,” Coulter said. “When you’re in a city under emergency management there’s a lot of stress, but the people here are doing the best they can to help the city.”
(James Mitchell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)