by Dan Holland
When Independence Police Chief Robert Butler took the helm Nov. 1, 2021, he brought with him ideas to add more supervision to patrols in the city. He previously served as a ranger captain with the Cleveland Metroparks and also as a lieutenant in the Cleveland Heights Police Department.
Under a new restructuring approved by city council at its Dec. 14 meeting, lieutenants were given a pay increase, with no deputy chief being appointed. The move allows the city to have in place long-time, veteran police officers on the roads during all shifts, according to Butler.
“The vision is that there will be a lieutenant and a sergeant per shift on the road,” Butler explained. “By doing this, it increases the number of personnel that are on the road, and allows our supervision to directly oversee day-to-day operations.”
“Throughout my law enforcement career, this is something that I have found to be very valuable,” he continued. “I implemented something similar to this in my previous job. What this gives is a sense of focus and direction to the road by giving more supervision.”
At the December council meeting, Councilperson Tom Narduzzi, chair of the safety committee, said about the restructuring, “We always have either a lieutenant or sergeant that would be the commander of the force at any given time. So, [the chief] just wanted to beef that one person so we always had … somebody with better knowledge if there was an emergency at all times in the city.”
The city hired seven new police officers in 2021, the most hired in a single year going back many decades. The city is nearing its full slate of 38 officers, said Butler. In addition, officers Mike Murphy and Mark Buehner were promoted to the rank of lieutenant in January.
“So far, it’s been going great,” Butler continued. “We’ve received very good, positive feedback from the officers. And overall, the citizens’ comments have been very positive with the number of officers they’re seeing on the roads now.”
He said that, nationwide, many veteran police officers have been retiring earlier than expected, making for a younger police force in many cases.
“Having that extra supervision embodies the vision that Independence wants from our officers,” he said. “[Residents] want that good community service, and they want that good proactive approach. So, you need people who have that leadership out on the road directing and showing how it’s done. A lot of places nowadays don’t do that as much.”
Butler noted a recent local news feature about Independence police officers coming to the assistance of persons shut-in or stranded during a heavy snowstorm in mid-January.
“That is the kind of public service we are expecting,” he said. “We want our officers to be out there providing the great service that they always have, and now we luckily got a little bit of extra recognition. You’re still going from call-to-call, to crashes and other unfortunate things. But to have that wherewithal to still make a difference is the key to success.” ∞