Tisbury police officers criticize promotion process
Tisbury police officers say they were caught off-guard last week by the news that the selectmen approved Police Chief John Cashin's recommendation to promote Officer Timothy Stobie to a newly created third sergeant's position.
Members of the police department officially learned of Officer Stobie's promotion in a memo they received from Chief Cashin in their in-baskets on the morning after the selectmen's meeting.
"Patrolmen have approached me, and they're concerned about the lack of process," said Officer Michael Gately, the senior patrolman and union shop steward, when reached for comment last Friday.
During the selectmen's meeting, Chief Cashin announced that he wanted to promote someone to sergeant to act in a supervisory position and to help relieve his workload so that he can focus on other time-consuming projects he is working on. The department will now have three sergeants and seven permanent police officers.
Addressing his remarks to the selectmen and also to the public that might view the videotaped meeting later on MVTV, Chief Cashin said he wanted it known that he and the selectmen had numerous discussions about the promotion.
"This has been done with a great deal of forethought, he said. "I nominate Officer Tim Stobie. He's got a tremendously good record of service. He's worked closely with me and has been an incredibly supportive right-hand man."
Sergeant Stobie has served as a fulltime Tisbury police officer since 1989. In June 2006, he was appointed acting chief of police by the selectmen after former Police Chief Ted Saulnier retired following several months of failed contract negotiations. Sergeant Stobie served as acting chief until September, when Chief Cashin assumed his new duties.
At the Feb. 12 meeting, selectman chairman Tom Pachico said he agreed with Chief Cashin's choice 100 percent. He also made it a point to acknowledge that Officers Michael Gately and Daniel Hanavan had been with the department for quite awhile.
Officer Hanavan, who ranks third in seniority behind officers Gately and Stobie, applied for and was chosen as one of 3 finalists, including Chief Cashin, out of 17 candidates for the police chief's job.
Mr. Pachico said the selectmen had agreed that Chief Cashin would examine his own department and make his recommendation as to who should be promoted to sergeant. "I want to thank all of the officers for their loyalty to the town," Mr. Pachico added.
Tisbury's Finance and Advisory Committee approved Chief Cashin's request for funding for two promotions within the police department last November. The funding for a lieutenant's and a sergeant's position through June 30, 2008, amounted to about $18,000, FinCom chairman Muriel Mill reported at that time. The two positions are included in Chief Cashin's Fiscal Year 2009 budget, she said this week.
Tisbury's personnel bylaw for town employees does not apply to members of the police department, who work under a union contract, town administrator John Bugbee explained in a phone call yesterday.
In discussions between the selectmen and Chief Cashin about promoting an officer to sergeant, Mr. Bugbee said, "We went through the union contract extensively, and there is no language in the supervisory officers' contract that dictates what process to follow when making any promotion to sergeant. That lack of language left it in the hands of the selectmen to decide what process to use." They in turn agreed to turn the decision over to Chief Cashin, Mr. Bugbee said.
During a previous period of upheaval in the Tisbury police department, the town turned to Robert Wasserman, a West Tisbury resident and international security consultant. Mr. Wasserman is the chairman of the Strategic Policy Partnership, a group that assists police and government agencies with performance improvement and policy development.
His 25-page assessment of the Tisbury police department, commonly referred to as the "Wasserman Report," was released in February 2001. The report recommended a process for filling a vacant sergeant's position, including a written exam developed and administered by an independent neutral personnel professional. It would be open to all members of the department with at least five years of experience.
In addition to a written exam, Mr. Wasserman suggested candidates should be interviewed by a board including a majority of persons from outside the department, such as the chiefs of police from other Island towns, in addition to the Tisbury police chief.
Mr. Bugbee said the recommendations in the Wasserman report were intended to get the department through a transitional period, which has since passed.
Chief Cashin was out of town this week and unavailable for a follow-up comment.