The public face of Bloomington's law enforcement and public safety effort is leaving for a new job in Missouri. WGLT's Charlie Schlenker has more on the job change of Police Chief Randy McKinley.
After nearly 29 years with the Bloomington Police Department, Chief Randy McKinley is retiring and taking the Chief's job in the Saint Louis suburb of Saint Charles, Missouri. It is not unusual for top police administrators to leave for a second career when their pension amounts max out. The Town of Normal lost its previous chief for the same reason. McKinley says the decision was complex and he is actually leaving about 5% of potenial pension on the table.
"When I thought about getting out of police work it didn't set well. If I'm going to be marketable, why wait until I'm almost 57 and then try to make a change."
McKinley will soon turn 55. He says he is pleased with the problem oriented policing model he has implemented in Bloomington and might try to introduce that in Saint Charles. He says city leaders have expressed interest. But, McKinley says he will go slowly.
"Police officers don't like change. It's uncomfortable. So my first goal of course is to meet people and build relationships and hopefully get their buy in. And if changes need to be made it can happen later."
Saint Charles has more traffic than Bloomington, a lot bigger metro area population. But, crime rates are similar to Bloomington as is, McKinley says, one other factor.
"When I asked some of the Council people what's your biggest issue?, and they said well it's our north Main Street bar district. It's Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturday nights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. And I said, you know, that sounds familiar."
McKinley says the state of the department is good, particularly the way officers work together better now than they have in years. City Manager David Hales will choose McKinley's replacement.
"You know we need a clone of Randy McKinley."
Hales says a new police chief will need to be a people person who works collaboratively, particularly internally.
A police chief needs to have a very strong working relationship with the unions that represent the bulk of our personnel. And I might say Randy has really excelled. When i came in 2009 the relationship with the unions was not very good and Randy has turned that around."
Bloomington's Mayor Steve Stockton also praises McKinley's outreach effort.
"A good chief also has to be able to visualize the situation through the eyes of a citizen. Chief McKinley instituted chief's meetings with concerned neighbors."
Stockton says the multi agency nature of the community also suggests particular skills.
"We also need a leader who can work well with other agencies, the Normal Department, the Sheriff's office, as well as the Schools and other City departments.
A third thing might be the ability to innovate and fine more efficient ways to do the work. We're always trying to stretch the tax dollar."
Bloomington has a long tradition of promoting from within. The last seven Bloomington Police Chiefs have all been internal hires dating back thirty years. (Randy McKinley, Roger Aikin, Denny O'Brien, Dick Ryan, Tim Linsky, Myron Miller, and Lewis DeVault...before that was the outside hire, Don Story, who proved an unpopular choice for the job.) The two current Assistant Chiefs are Bob Siron who handles investigations and administration and Bob Wall who deals with operations. Wall has had recent legal troubles after leaving the scene of an accident. City Manager David Hales declines to say whether that would derail Wall's potential candidacy.
"I think it's premature to answer that particular question."
Even though Wall has pleaded guilty to traffic charges, Hales says relevant informaition has yet to come in.
"And I'm still awaiting the current Police Chief's final decision as to what if any disciplinary action will be taken against Bob Wall."
Chief McKinley says Wall has done a lot for the Department and McKinley believes Wall's abilities should outweigh the mis-step. For the present, McKinley is starting to look backward on a career in Bloomington that includes work as a patrollman, Detective, Crime Scene Tech, Sergeant, Lieutenant, and Assistant Chief.
"Believe me this is going to be a very difficult day when I walk out these doors for the last time. I love working for the city. And this is an outstanding police department, but I think my time has come, let somebody else take it."
McKinley says he will wrap things up January 19th.
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