In his first months on the job as Springfield's first director of the Public Safety Division, Richard Rosell has been very busy.
Charged with overseeing Springfield's police and fire divisions and the office of emergency management, Rosell has to lead the departments and while figuring out his own job.
"The instructions were very broad," Rosell said. "Not unclear, just broad. I was given a lot of latitude."
He was given responsibility of two relatively troubled institutions. The Fire Department, still suffering the effects of a highly publicized nepotism scandal from the mid '00s, is operating without a working volunteer division and, according to observers and people in the department, understaffed.
The police department, led for years by unpopular chief William Chisholm, the target of a number of lawsuits, was placed indefinitely under the control of the Union County's Prosecutor's office when a leadership vacuum was created after highest ranking officer Captain Peter Davis resigned from that position and announced his retirement in June.
Compounding Rosell's difficulties, is that some observers view Rosell's job is a needless expense. Some sources contend it was created as a means to keep Chisholm in check and became unnecessary after his departure (a comment on the Patch story about Rosell's hiring expressed that sentiment).
Perhaps surprisingly, considering those circumstances, Rosell was emphatic in saying he had a good reception and a smooth transition. He credited Fire Department Chief James Sanford and Union County Police Captain Carl Riley, whom the Prosecutor's office appointed to head the police department, for their leadership and cooperation. Also he said Davis, who returned to the force for several months until retiring at the end of August, assisted him with the force.
"It couldn't have gone any better," the former State Police Captain and Marine said. "I was expecting to be summarily dismissed by the division as a civilian director."
He cited morale as the biggest problem facing the police department.
"That dates back many years, but it continues to be an issue in the department on a daily basis," Rosell said. [The police] feel like they've been neglected."
Rosell said their reasons for feeling that way are understandable. "There was a gross lack of training," Rosell said, adding that the widespread belief in the department was that officer recommendations were not taken seriously.
Rosell said he and his team have been sorting through tangles of policies and procedures, and taking steps to provide more training for the officers. He specifically cited a recent a recent "simunitions" exercise where police officers trained with real firearms firing simulated ammunition. In addition, he noted that that the township would host a regional intelligence academy seminar later this month.
He hopes the increased training will benefit officers throughout the department. But he also attributed blamed the department's t-shaped organization for its dysfunction.
The command structure was completely unacceptable," He said. "There was Pete and his sergeants and that was it.
Resell has recommended several officers for promotion, including a new captain, a lieutenant in charge of administration and investigation, two patrol lieutenants and five new sergeants. In addition, he said he expected to hire about a half dozen patrolmen.
He said that part of the reason promotions didn't occur was because the department didn't have solid performance evaluations in place.
[That's why] I didn't recommend Pete [Davis] to be acting chief," he said, explaining he didn't feel he had the right tools to assess the former captain's performance as highest-ranking officer in the department.
Rosell indicated he felt the fire department was in better shape, citing Chief Sanford's leadership. Nevertheless, he was sympathetic to complaints about the department when he met with Springfield's FMBA representative Joe Popolo.
Popolo and others have contended that Springfield's fire department lacks the necessary firefighters to fulfill the state's "two in, two out" requirement. Under that requirement, for every two officers who attend to a fire, two more must be available on site for support.
Rosell said he believed the staffing issue is "subjective" but that he understood the argument.
"I don't think Popolo thought I'd understand it," Rosell said. "Everything they said, I agreed with. They're not asking for anything unreasonable."
However, he emphasized he wasn't making a statement about hiring more firefighters.
To express the situation bluntly, he used a phrase he said he hated.
"We have to do more with less," he said.