Recent structural changes in the fire department are relatively minor, according to Grand Forks Fire Chief Gary Lorenz. The word Grand Forks Police Lt. Derik Zimmel used to describe similar changes in the police department was "gradual." But both men agreed that the changes were important to the long-term missions of their respective departments.
In March, two former Grand Forks Fire Department battalion chiefs were promoted to the newly-created deputy chief positions. And within the Grand Forks Police Department, officers' patrol areas were reorganized to more closely resemble a "beat cop" model, with officers regularly patrolling a single area. Two bureaus within the department were consolidated to focus more on education and outreach.
The two deputy fire chiefs will assume many of the administrative responsibilities within the station, such as managing budgets, grants and maintenance planning, a workload that previously was distributed amongst all five battalion chiefs. Lorenz said the goal of this change is to improve continuity between shifts.
As part of the transition, the newly-promoted Deputy Chiefs Bruce Weymier and Chad Cutshaw received a roughly $9,000 raise apiece in accordance with city policy, and will not be eligible for overtime pay.
Lorenz, who came to Grand Forks as fire chief three years ago, said the change is part of his vision to adapt the fire department as the city changes and grows.
"I think it puts a better structure in place as the city grows over the years," Lorenz said. "So when my successor takes over that organizational structure is already there. He's got those, those day chief positions that kind of are overseeing everything within the organization, and it will really help as the city and the department expands into the future, I believe."
The police department regularly makes small tweaks to the structure of the department, Zimmel said.
"The demands on us constantly change, societal expectations change, city function changes, budget changes – there are all kinds of changes that are occurring," he said. "So if all we did was leave the same form and function without regard for those changes, we'd be inefficient very quickly."
Last fall, the department's Specialized Resource Bureau and Human Resources Bureau were consolidated into to the Education and Outreach Bureau, which will be headed by GFPD Lt. William Macki. The new bureau will roll several existing programs – including the department's mental health liaison, cultural liaison, school resources officers and training function – into a single bureau. That change stems from the department's goal of increased connection with the community, Zimmel said.
Similarly, the change to the beat cop model was settled on after the department recognized a need for officers to build a stronger relationship with the communities they police and the people who live there.
Officers were reassigned to particular neighborhoods based on a "bidding" process for their preferred assignments, and will patrol those assignments for the duration of a year. As officers have begun to patrol their assigned neighborhoods, they will be able to more closely monitor long-term trends and concerns in particular issues of the city. Perhaps more important, they have begun to develop a rapport with the people they now see regularly, Zimmel said.
"Day after day, they get to know the people, they get to know the neighborhoods, and they're a little more in tune with what might be going wrong, or ongoing developing trends, as opposed to rotating throughout the city," he said.