Superior Police Chief Nicholas Alexander shared the department’s mission statement with new officers Bethany Kemi and Michael Pitoscia during a swearing-in ceremony Friday, Jan. 3. The department is sworn to protect, committed to justice and dedicated to professional service.
“The root of the word justice is ‘just,’ and that means to do what’s right,” Alexander said. “And that’s ultimately what I task the two of you with doing in our department, is to do the right thing.”
Sometimes the right thing is making an arrest.
Other times it’s putting yourself in another person's shoes and making a different call.
“I want you to think about the best outcomes, and use that to guide your decision,” he said.
If the words sounded familiar to some, it’s because the ceremony has become a regular event.
Alexander, who’s been Superior’s top cop since 2015, has hired half the department since he took over, but there is an end in sight.
“It will start slowing down,” he said. “I think the years of us having five to six (officers) leave are for the most part over.”
The Superior City Council in 2016 approved funding to hire officers in advance of retirements. The pre-hiring began in 2017, and 2019 marks the first year where the police department has been ahead of the curve on retirements. With Friday's ceremony, the department had 61 officers. A full roster is 58.
The years of experience retiring officers take with them are difficult to replace.
Community Policing Officer Bonnie Beste recently retired after 21 years. Officer Todd Maas retired Dec. 20 after 26 years with the department. Investigator Cory Hanson and Assistant Chief Matt Markon will retire in 2020 after 26 years and 29 years, respectively.
Take Markon, the assistant chief. Alexander said his replacement will be named early to give them time to shadow Markon before he retires.
The result is a younger group of officers, which offers the department new perspective, Alexander said.
For example, new recruits tend to be more interested in the concepts of community policing.
“I think they naturally want to find different ways to sometimes help people besides making arrests,” Alexander said. “That’s why I think a program like Pathways to Hope can be successful because we have officers who can see that hey, arresting people that are drug addicts isn’t necessarily the right fix.”
Launched in October 2018, the Pathways to Hope program has been offered to 50 people struggling with addition, split fairly evenly between meth users and opiate users. The program gives them a chance to seek treatment instead of facing criminal charges.
As of Friday, 13 people were in treatment and five have graduated.
“I still think that that’s a success,” Alexander said. “I do think a high percentage of the people who are no longer in it were probably the ones who looked at it as an opportunity to get out of jail at the moment. We draw the line there; we hold them accountable. If they don’t follow through, we follow through with the arrest.”
New in 2020 will be a modernization of the department’s policies and handbook, which have been tweaked to reflect state and national changes. The updates have been needed for years, Alexander said.
“I’m the third chief who has talked about modernizing policies,” he said.
Superior residents can also expect organizational changes with a new assistant chief, a continued emphasis on community policing and a push for a camera system in public spaces. A city-wide system could improve the quality of life and help solve crimes, Alexander said.
“I think they do overall have a preventative effect. I think it’s important the city eventually invest in that," he said.