Organizational Changes And New Chief Reshapes Police Department


The Payson Police Department had many familiar faces say goodbye in 2007. Reorganization and new assignments followed.

Long-time Chief Gordon Gartner, Support Services Manager Della Bradley and Detective Steven Johnson all retired in 2007. Other officers took positions with other agencies.

Don Engler, who served as the department's second-in-command as a lieutenant, was hired as the new chief of police.

"A year of change best describes 2007 for the Payson Police Department," Engler said in his opening remarks of the department's 2007 annual report, released last month.

The department took steps to start growing its own officers and began the year with detailed academy instruction and proficiency training in its own Payson Law Enforcement Training Academy. The efforts produced six new hires.

Les Barr took and qualified in testing for a general detective position. He became a detective with the department on June 1.

Della Bradley grew up with the department, joining the staff in 1976, when Payson first incorporated and started its own police force. Her retirement resulted in one of the biggest shift in responsibilities. Her work was divided among three employees.

Executive Assistant Kim Becker took over the Bradley's administrative and financial duties. Communications Super-visor Irma Bramlet became the dispatch supervisor. Jill Van Camp, who had worked as one of the department's dispatchers, became supervisor of the records division.

The calls

Engler said officers responded to 22,845 calls for service in 2007. The department's patrol division is its largest.

It is designed to have six patrol sergeants and 16 patrol officers, he said. For most of 2007 it operated with only 13 patrol officers. The 22,845 calls averages out to about 951 calls per officer, he said.

The addition of the new Mobile Data Computers was significant to the operation of patrols, Engler said.

It is also the largest contributing factor to more accurate tracking statistical information that shows increases in some areas of criminal activity.

Engler's report shows: 2,801 arrests, including both adult and juvenile cases; 530 traffic accidents; 293 assaults and aggravated assaults; 193 drug arrests; and 146 burglaries. There were 468 criminal investigation cases in 2007.

He said 22 children had to be removed from a drug environment in 2007, and 19 tested positive for methamphetamine.

The communications department of the Payson Police Department not only handles dispatch and some records duties for the local officers and residents; it takes care of calls for the Payson Fire Department, the Tonto Apache Police Department, Diamond Star Fire Department, Tonto Village Fire Department, Beaver Valley Fire Department, Whispering Pines Fire Depart-ment and the Houston Mesa Fire Department.

The dispatch staff also takes after-hour and holiday call-outs for other town departments, including water, streets and parks and recreation. The 12 dispatchers, nine who are full time and five, who are reserves, handled 53,389 calls.

Engler's goals for 2008 are to create a new detective position, fill the lieutenant's position he vacated to become chief, maintain an active narcotics investigations unit and, if possible, build the patrol division.

He said the highest priority he has for 2008 is to present an proposal for a wage increase for the department in an effort to solve some of the salary issues which currently have an impact on hiring and retaining police officers.

"We will maintain a teamwork approach to law enforcement, not only within our organization, but also teaming with other organizations throughout Gila County, in an effort to provide the best service possible to the citizens of our community," Engler said.

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