CEDAR FALLS — The appointment of assistant police chief Craig Berte to acting police chief caused some controversy at Monday night’s Cedar Falls City Council meeting.
The move was approved on a 4-2 vote, with newly seated council members Dave Sires and Simon Harding dissenting.
Berte will receive anywhere from a 3% to 7% pay increase after a certain amount of time in the position, said Cedar Falls Public Safety Director Jeff Olson. But he said the move would not add a position. The assistant police chief job will be eliminated.
“Our intent is to create a police chief separate from the director,” Olson said Monday night. “So we’re not adding a layer, and we’re not adding a position.”
Hiring a police chief will take three months, given the civil service process, and Berte would remain acting chief for that time.
But others questioned why the city — which has gone to a public safety officer model that cross-trains police officers as firefighters — needed both a police and a fire chief again.
“How in any way does this add to the synergy?” asked Scott Dix, Cedar Falls Fire Local 1366 president. “This does not help us. It’s just more added weight at the top.”
Olson replied it was part of his “phased-in retirement” plan to “make responsibilities a little more evenly distributed” between the two departments.
Sires, an at-large council member, said he would rather vote on a choice for acting police chief.
“I happen to like Craig Berte,” he said, “but it seems to me council should choose from candidates.”
“Typically, a couple council members sit on that committee,” replied Ward 1 council member Mark Miller.
“But isn’t this the time to make these decisions?” asked Sires, saying he’d like to choose from candidates “that might be tougher on drugs, or somebody who wants dogs.”
City Administrator Ron Gaines detailed the process for hiring a new police chief, including advertising, testing, the civil service commission making a list of qualified candidates and holding two rounds of interviews before recommending approval of a candidate by the council.
Sires asked if the process could be changed to include more council approval. Mayor Rob Green replied Sires could request to change the city ordinance if he wished.
Get Government & Politics updates in your inbox!
Stay up-to-date on the latest in local and national government and political topics with our newsletter.