Hendricks to eliminate some titles

Published 11:57 pm Thursday, June 5, 2008

VIDALIA — Things at the Vidalia Police Department are going to be different when chief-elect Ronnie G. “Tapper” Hendricks takes office July 1.

The current two-assistant chief system will be reduced to one, and though he has not taken office yet, Hendricks has already announced he will appoint Capt. Arthur Lewis to that position.

“I have known him (Lewis) for a long time,” Hendricks said. “I chose him for his experience and for his relationship with the public. He is very well-respected in the public.”

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Other than Lewis’ appointment as assistant chief, though, Hendricks is planning to remove the rank of other officers and start over with one lieutenant and three sergeants.

The department currently has three captains, five lieutenants and eight sergeants.

“As time progresses and as we grow more, there will be more rank, but rank is something earned and deserved,” Hendricks said. “You don’t just give rank because this person is your friend.”

The position of captain will eventually be filled, but at this time Hendricks does not believe it is necessary, he said.

Hendricks also looked through the payroll and eliminated some of the unnecessary and inactive positions on the books, he said.

“An auxiliary officer is still considered an officer, and when I looked on the city payroll I counted 70 officers,” Hendricks said. “ One of those officers only received $22 last year.

“If you’re doing that, you’re only doing it to say you’re an officer and to have a badge.”

After the reduction, the number of officers — including auxiliary officers — will be approximately 40, Hendricks said.

The department will also implement other money-saving strategies, Hendricks said.

Those saved funds will be used to give the officers a pay increase with a total package including insurance and retirement in the upper $30,000s range.

“The reason these guys never got a raise was because nobody ever asked for a raise for them,” Hendricks said. “I am going to pay those officers a decent salary. That gives them an incentive to do a good job for the citizens in this community.”

By following the procedures of the department, the officers will improve how the community sees the police, Hendricks said.

“They will get the respect the department deserves by giving the people the respect they deserve by doing a good job,” he said.

“I am the kind of guy who likes discipline and order, and these guys are going to do the job in a way that makes the community say, ‘I am proud they work for me.’”