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New year to bring leadership changes to Hastings Police

Blake Nosal, right, and Ashlan Lambert swear the city's oath of office for police officers. They were hired in August and recently completed their field training. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)1 / 2
Ashlan Lambert, one of Hastings' newest police officers, smiles as her badge is pinned to her uniform. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)2 / 2

With a new year, there's new change. With the start of the new year fast approaching, the Hastings Police Department is expecting some major changes in 2017. Bryan Schafer, the chief of police, said the structure of the department will be changing; there will also be some promotions and new positions to be filled.

With the retirement of Sgt. Rod Risch and Lt. Jim Rgnonti, it leaves Schafer with the rare opportunity to restructure the department — an opportunity, he said, most chiefs don't get to have in their career.

Currently, the department is split in half with a lieutenant, investigator and patrol officers on each side. It's sort of a hybrid organizational chart right now, but with Rgnonti's retirement, Schafer said he will be moving toward a more traditional reorganization. It's a decision that was made after he looked at hundreds of organizational charts.

"For me, it's getting the department where I think it should be by the time I get ready to retire," Schafer said. "...I think new change is good, a breath of fresh air, a new focus, new visions are always good."

The HPD's other lieutenant, Joe Kegley, is also retiring, and plans to leave the department in the summer. Rather than hiring a new lieutenant to replace Rgnonti now and another to replace Kegley next year, the HPD plans to hire a deputy chief and a commander.

The two new positions will have different responsibilities than what the lieutenants currently do.

The deputy chief will be in charge of the investigations, school resource officer, drug task force, crime analysis and more. The commander will be in charge of the patrol function of the department, meaning more day-to-day tasks involving the patrol officers.

Schafer said he hopes to have both the deputy chief and commander positions filled by March. After those positions are filled, they will begin to fill the remaining open positions.

"I want the commander and deputy chief to have input on who the sergeants are going to be, and I want the (sergeants) to have a say and be involved in the hiring of new officers, because these are people that they're going to be supervising for years to come," Schafer said.

In addition to the hiring of full-time positions, the department will be hiring three part-time positions. One will be for a part-time evidence room technician. This person will help HPD organize and dispose of some of the items after cases are resolved.

They will also be hiring two part-time receptionists so that the lobby area of the police department can be reopened. No official date has been set, but Schafer said they hope to reopen the lobby to the public by the end of January.

The lobby was closed a few years ago due to budgetary restraints during the recession. Anyone who wanted to speak to someone at the police department was redirected to the lobby of City Hall, where someone called over to the police department for someone to walk over.

"I think out of the respect for a person who has become a crime victim or wants to report a crime, I think they'd feel better doing it in the confines of the police department," Schafer said.

Reopening the lobby is another way for HPD to build better relationships and become more approachable and accessible to the community, Schafer said. Once the lobby service is available, it will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The end of the year also marked some changes at HPD. Rgnonti and Risch were not only recognized at the City Council meeting Dec. 19, but two new officers were sworn in. Officers Ashlan Lambert and Blake Nosal were welcomed to HPD with their swearing in ceremony.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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