Growth is a welcome sign of a successful agency, but it also demands action and ongoing adjustments to ensure that the agency is operating efficiently and maintaining a fulfilled staff while serving its constituents. After experiencing extensive growth within their ranks, the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO)—which serves nearly 300,000 residents along the Eastern coast of Lake Michigan—recognized this and their need for a staffing assessment, and called upon the Center for Public Safety Management (CPSM) to evaluate their current practices.
As a top quality agency, the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office was confident that their services to the community continued to exceed expectations. But they also knew that there was opportunity for more efficiency internally, particularly on the administrative side.
“It had been 25 years since our last staffing assessment and we’d also taken on two large contracts in recent years, so our staffing needs had shifted fairly dramatically,” explained Ottawa County Undersheriff Valerie Weiss. “Our department had experienced rapid growth, and we knew we would benefit from looking at the agency as a whole to ensure we had the right people in the right assignments moving forward.”
After conducting an extensive evaluation, including interviews with stakeholders and reviewing years’ worth of data, CPSM identified many ways in which OCSO was doing things very well, in addition to places where they could rearrange responsibilities to meet their own evolving needs.
“Ottawa County reflects a modern police agency that is professional and responsive to its community’s needs,” said CPSM Senior Associate and retired Police Captain Carol Rasor-Cordero. “Our recommendations were made to assist their team in navigating the growth they continue to experience as their service area expands and demands on their resources increase. Our primary goal is to ensure that police resources are optimally deployed, operations are streamlined for efficiency, and the services provided are cost-effective, while maintaining the high level of police services currently being provided to the citizens of Ottawa County.”
One of the first recommendations from the report that the department implemented was the addition of a lieutenant level in the ranks to provide administrative support between the sergeants and the captains. This provided relief to the high ranking officers, and allowed more room for necessary supervision and discipline over their growing deputy ranks—a pain point the department had previously identified. So far, they say it’s been an overwhelmingly positive addition.
Some recommendations were much more difficult, but necessary, to move forward with; such as the dissolution of the Department’s longtime reserve unit.
“We went into this process ready for suggestions and open to change,” said Sheriff Steve Kempker. “So, as difficult as some changes have been, we had to look at the data that was presented to us and make the right decision for the department. That is something in particular that I appreciated about CPSM; they clearly said ‘here is what we recommend’ and provided clear and valid reasoning behind each point. It made these tough choices feel more manageable.”
Almost 2 years after the final report was delivered, OCSO still refers back to it on a regular basis to ensure that they are keeping up with the recommendations and moving the department into the future.
“The CPSM report has helped shape our growth as an agency,” says Sheriff Kempker. “We’re truly impressed by their professionalism and thorough approach. They’ve helped us lay the groundwork for continued expansion so we can evolve with our County to best serve and protect our community.”