Fire, police commissioners have no discourse with mayor about Lewin contract; Yates talks about ISP recruitment efforts, Missouri residency issue

Fire and police commissioners

Seated left at the table, commissioners Steve Meckes and Barry Cheyne talk with interim police chief Adam Yates during Tuesday's meeting of the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners in City Hall. | David Adam

QUINCY — The Board of Fire and Police Commissioners discussed hiring requirements and approvals for police officers and firefighters, reviewed records of previous closed meetings, finalized the commission’s annual report and took action on several other items during its meeting Tuesday morning at City Hall.

What the commissioners did not discuss in open session, however, were the negotiations with Jonathan Lewin to become the city’s next police chief.

Quincy Mayor Mike Troup said during a Monday press conference he planned to ask the City Council to request that the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners extend their probationary appointment to Lewin to one year — six months longer than the offer made on May 2.

Troup was asked after Monday’s City Council meeting if changing the probationary period for Lewin was discussed during executive session.

“There was talk about that as a status update, but no, there’s no pending change,” he replied.

Troup didn’t appear at the fire and police commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday.

Asked after the meeting if any conversation between the commission and the mayor had happened, commissioner Steve Meckes said, “Not yet.” Commissioner Barry Cheyne followed with, “No conversation.” (Commissioner Mike McLaughlin took part in the meeting by phone.)

However, both expressed a desire for that conversation to take place.

“The obvious answer is: The sooner, the better. Right?” Cheyne said. “The city needs a decision from Mr. Lewin.”

Commissioners want to work out arrangement to hire Lewin

The commissioners said they last spoke with Troup on May 3. Cheyne also said he last spoke with Lewin on May 3. He tried to call Lewin on Saturday, but the call went to Lewin’s voicemail.

“I heard the feedback from the mayor (after Monday’s press conference) about what was going on,” Cheyne said. “I just kind of want to know.”

Cheyne said he hasn’t talked with Lewin about concerns with the six-month probationary offer that was made last week.

“I’m hearing he’s concerned about it, but I haven’t heard it from him,” Cheyne said. “That’s fine. The offer is being rendered through the city, not through the commission.”

Meckes wanted to make it understood the commission believes Lewin is “an excellent candidate.”

“We have every intention of trying to work out an arrangement for him to become the police chief for the city of Quincy,” he said. “We want to cooperate with the mayor to make that happen.”

QPD detective says many police officers ‘frustrated’

Adam Gibson, a detective for the Quincy Police Department, spoke “on behalf of several members of our department, myself and several community members who have expressed frustration with this process” during the public comments portion of the meeting. He said the process has been “taxing” to the police department. Gibson is concerned officers will leave the department to work for the Illinois State Police if the process is not resolved quickly.

“We as a department need to regain a sense of normalcy, and the citizens of this community need to regain trust in our department and in our government as it relates to this process,” Gibson said. “We as a department need a clear direction moving forward, whatever that may be. If Mr. Lewin was confident in his ability to lead this department forward and was as excited as he says he is, the amount of time of probation wouldn’t matter. 

“If his concern was having to go through the testing battery, (police officers have) all been through those exact tests to be here. He should be no different.”

Interim police chief Adam Yates told the commissioners how Saturday’s cyber attack on the city of Quincy’s computer network was affecting the police department. Reports are handled and tickets are issued the old-fashioned way — on paper.

“I think this is as bad as it gets,” he said. “We have no email, no access to network drives. Anybody with a PC or laptop was told not to turn it back on until it can be screened for any potential issues. IT has been diligently working on it, but there’s only so many of them. We’re kind of on a stand-by mode right now until we get word things will come back online that will get us back to operations.”

‘Fast track’ program makes jump to Illinois State Police more attractive

Yates also told the commissioners about a “fast track” program the Illinois State Police recently changed to attract troopers. A certified law enforcement officer typically would go to a 12-week academy to join the ISP. Cadets go through a 26-week academy. Also, new officers typically could not select the district they which they would be assigned.

Yates said the “fast track” program allows officers to go through five weeks of training at the state police academy. The rest of the training is done online. Officers also can choose the district they want to work in.

“Anybody on the fence about going to the state police, they just made it much more attractive for them,” Yates said. “If you live in Quincy, you’re in District 20, so most Quincy officers want to come back to District 20. District 20 is severely understaffed, and after speaking to the district commander, it never will be at full staff.”

Yates said the ISP offers better compensation than QPD and it has a “more appealing” pension program. Retired officers also get paid health care.

Asked how to combat the number of officers who might leave for the ISP, Yates said the city recently made it easier for officers in other communities to make a lateral move to Quincy. They will earn the same salary as a Quincy police officer with the same number of years of experience.

Yates wants city to consider hiring officers from outside Adams County

Yates would like for the city to look into hiring police officers who live outside of Adams County.

“I would like to explore this Missouri residency issue,” he said. “We have a very unique opportunity. We’re positioned to allow folks to live in Missouri, to recruit active officers from Missouri, and bring them into Illinois. Now they don’t have to move if they live in Missouri, or if we can agree to a certain radius. I think that’s a great opportunity for us.

“We work fairly closely with the Hannibal Police Department, the Palmyra Police Department and the LaGrange Police Department. When we do that, we have conversations with officers about coming to work. My understanding from talking to our officers is there’s anywhere from four to six officers lined up right now who would take advantage of our lateral entry program if they didn’t have to move into Illinois.”

A new business item on the agenda called for the commission to discuss police chief search lessons learned. However, Cheyne pushed that discussion back one month until the search is complete.

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