Oct 5, 2022 Updated Dec 2, 2022 – Margaret Reist – Lincoln Journal Star
The Lincoln City Council took the unusual step Monday of suspending its rules and voted to approve an ordinance creating the new rank of Lincoln police lieutenant — one of the organizational changes shepherded by the new chief.
The council, which has been reluctant to suspend its rules in other cases, agreed to vote on the ordinance at second rather than third reading because Chief Teresa Ewins said having to wait two weeks would mess up the bidding process officers go through to determine their jobs, shifts and geographic teams for the year.
In their planning, police officials had overlooked Indigenous People’s Day on Oct. 10 — when the council won’t meet — which means if the council followed its rules it wouldn’t approve the change until Oct. 17.
Having to wait that long would disrupt the bidding process and also would cause scheduling problems for an outside firm coming in to test the lieutenant applicants, Ewins said.
She’d tried to create the rank of lieutenant — a supervisory role between sergeants and captains — earlier on in her tenure, but the Lincoln Police Union blocked the effort because the chief had wanted to unilaterally appoint lieutenants to different stations and shifts, rather than letting them bid for positions.
It appears many of those issues have been worked out — and the new ordinance creates the position with a pay range from $82,771 to $120,020.
Sergeant pay ranges from $84,793 to $107,369. Although starting pay for sergeants is higher than that for lieutenants, it’s unlikely sergeants being promoted to lieutenant would start on the bottom step of the pay scale, Ewins said.
They’re still working out details, including whether lieutenants will be part of the bargaining unit, she said. Now it’s just officers and sergeants.
Ewins said LPD plans to hire 8-10 lieutenants, a change that will ultimately cost about $900,000, though it won’t impact the current budget because of unfilled positions.
Sergeants will be able to apply for the higher rank, and the department will evaluate how many sergeant positions it needs to fill depending on what departments or areas lose them to the new higher rank, she said.
LPD had lieutenants until former Chief Tom Casady eliminated them in 1996, an effort to create a leaner and flatter management structure, a trend in management at the time. Then, it was a financial wash that ultimately reduced total command staff slightly and allowed the department to put more resources to hiring officers and sergeants, Casady said.
Ewins wants to bring lieutenants back to offer more supervision to officers, create a clear delineation between ranks and create more accountability. It also will offer a stepping stone for officers who want to move up in the department. Now the difference in responsibilities between sergeants and captains is huge, she said.
“The organization is going to grow as the city grows, so we need to make sure there’s a structure in place with clear supervision and guidance for our members,” she told the council.
The council has refused to suspend its rules in several recent instances, unlike the Lincoln Board of Education, which fairly routinely suspends its rules to vote ahead of final reading.