Shuffling the ranks

Published 1:16 pm Saturday, January 30, 2010

It’s going to be a busy few weeks and months inside the Austin Police Department.

With chief Paul Philipp retiring Sunday, that vacancy becomes the largest and seemingly most important to fill. But recent retirements and legal issues in the department have left — or will leave — a slew of other spots open as well.

Most notable among these is the captain position, vacated since 2007 when Curt Rude was charged with felony drug possession and theft.

Rude was convicted on the felony drug count in November. Last Monday, he was officially terminated from his job with the city.

The city would like to fill that spot — through an internal promotion — after the chief position is filled, which is expected to take two to four months, according to a flow chart produced by human resources director Trish Wiechmann.

In the interim, Det. Brian Krueger and Lt. John Mueller will be sharing the chief’s duties.

To fill the chief’s position long-term, the city will advertise the spot both internally and externally. The Austin Police Civil Service Commission will also figure out how they want to test candidates and how to grade them. Eventually, the mayor will be recommending one name to city council.

In addition, a sergeant position is open because of the December retirement of Jim Erickson. Current officers Brian Blake, Eric Blust and Joe Milli all recently tested for the job, and council will likely vote to approve one of them for the promotion Monday.

But all of that shuffling within the ranks is starting to open up a number of entry-level officer positions as well. The first among these will be filled Monday, when council welcomes newly sworn-in Ross Johnson to the force. Johnson will, in effect, be taking over for whichever officer gets promoted to sergeant.

Down the road, filling in the chief vacancy could open up another spot — if the new chief is an internal hire. After that, more promotions will ensue to fill the captain’s spot, meaning another officer spot will be open.

Got it so far?

Wiechmann said the city does maintain a list of qualified candidates, so looking for new officers isn’t as hard as it might seem. When a spot does open, the top three names on the list advance to testing and interviewing, with one name ultimately being recommended by the mayor.

What this all means is that the APD will look much different when the dust settles, with old faces in new places — and new faces as officers.

“It’s exciting,” Wiechmann said, “but also confusing.”