Obetz Police adjust to transitions; plus contract talks continue

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By Katelyn Sattler
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Rick Palsgrove
The city of Obetz and the Obetz Police Department are currently holding talks regarding a new contract.

The Groveport Police Department is losing experience through retirements and Columbus is losing officers through a buyout program. How does the Obetz Police Department compare?

Obetz Police Chief Michael Confer said he is losing some officers.

“We do have some people that are in the process of doing lateral transfer right now over to another department,” said Confer. “One of our guys moved up to Hancock County in northern Ohio where his family lives.”

According to Confer, another Obetz officer is leaving to go to Reynoldsburg Police Department because it’s bigger and will have more opportunities and another is leaving to go to Pickerington Police Department because he lives there.

The Obetz Police consists of 20 full-time officers, but will be down to 18 officers once the two transfer.

In the Obetz Police Department, Confer said, “You have rank to move up in, but there’s no SWAT team or K9 unit. There’s not those other branches of the department to move to. And that’s what these guys are looking forward to being able to move to a different niche of the police departments that have that.”

When asked if his department needs a SWAT team, Confer said, “I’ve been here almost 20 years. I think we’ve probably used a SWAT team maybe 10 or 12 times. And those would usually for bigger case situations where they turn into domestic violence issues where people just don’t want to come outside.”

When Obetz does call for a SWAT team, it calls Franklin County first and then call Columbus SWAT.

In discussing the need for new officers, Confer said, “I don’t know how the recruiting process is going to go yet because we are a city now. And, as a village, you didn’t have to go by all the same rules to do national testing network and all the stuff that cities have to do. So I actually have to get with my human resources department and we have to narrow down exactly what the rules are per charter as to what the process is going to be to recruit new people in.”

Obetz is in contract negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police. It’s not currently known what will change concerning recruiting of new officers.

“That depends on what they negotiate in their contract of how they feel things should be done to what falls under management right of the way we want to do things,” said Confer. “But until that contract is all done, I couldn’t tell you how the process will go.”

When asked how the negotiations are progressing, Confer said, “We meet a couple of times a month. We don’t have a meeting this coming couple of weeks because of the Zucchinifest. We’ll get back together at the end of September. And depending on what the snafus are between what they want and what we want between the city and the officers. Until we come to an agreement, it can be a couple of years. It can be three months. It just depends on how it goes.”

Confer said there are two supervisors and two officers that work on the FOP side.

“So imagine that two sides of a table and on this side of the table is (city administrator) Rod Davisson and (deputy city administrator) Mike Corbitt, Law Director Gene Hollins, and (deputy chief) Brian Jeffers, and me, and our attorneys,” said Confer. “And on the other side is the FOP guys, two of our officers, and two of our supervisors. So we can all hash stuff out, back and forth.”

He said the individuals who are elected for the FOP side are representing the rest of the department.

“That is, they’re there to answer questions about what the department as a whole wants,” said Confer. “When we have questions, they help answer those. And when we have questions for the FOP, they collaborate answers to get back to us.”

Once the two sides agree on a contract, it will need to be approved by Obetz City Council.
Confer could retire in about six years and will start implementing a succession plan in about three years.

“The Groveport Police are going through retirement right now, so they’re having to fill those spots,” said Confer. “But our time’s coming in the next five or six years. There’s a crew of us that have been here forever and ever that are going to retire. So we’re in the process of working through that succession planning and getting everything together to start filling spots for our retirements. Using me for an example, in six years I’ll be eligible to retire. So in three years, whoever is sitting in my deputy chief spot at that time, I will start feeding that person everything that I can give them that’s locked up in this head of mine. So prepare them to take over when it’s my time to go.”

Deputy Chief Brian Jeffers could retire before Confer, so there could be a new deputy before Confer retires. Confer said all the sergeants, corporals, and officers will know generally how things are done before Jeffers leaves and during the transition.

Confer added, “I don’t personally get to pick the deputy chief. It’s a whole hiring process that everyone has to come through. But once we make that selection, we start the training process. Right now, Jeffers works directly with the sergeants and he’s feeding them his knowledge, everything that he’s learned over the years. So one of those sergeants will more than likely get moved up to his position. And then also what he’s already fed them, then I’ll start feeding them my stuff to take over when I retire.”

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