Luther, OK – The Luther Town Board named Sgt. Tony Walker as its new police chief following an executive session at its May meeting. Walker was named interim chief following the resignation of former Chief David Randall just two weeks ago.
Chief Walker has been with the Luther Police Department since 2017 and submitted a proposal outlining his goals for the town. Certified with “CLEET” and with other qualifications, Walker will complete a Master’s degree in criminology from Oklahoma City University, a Bachelor’s degree in Emergency Responder Administration from Oklahoma State University and two associates degrees in police science from OSU.
Trustee Paxton Cavin, police liaison to the Town Board said Walker will have a 90-day probationary period and will attend training for the position to lead the Luther Police Department. The decision came after an extensive closed door session complete with legwork beforehand to create a proposal. Cavin said policies allow the board to hire within if there is a qualified candidate and was a remedy to address immediate needs of the department including morale and the stress of being down two officers without active reserves.
I would like to extend my congratulations to Chief Walker and look forward to working with him in his new role. Walker has played a valuable role in the department since being hired and has proven to be transparent, professional, and hard working. There is no doubt in my mind that the Luther Police Department is set up for success and that as a community we will be seeing good things coming from the department,” said Trustee Paxton Cavin.
In his proposal to the board provided to The Luther Register, Walker outlined several goals to “prove himself” during his suggested 90-day probationary period as chief. Those goals include: recruiting quality full-time officers to fill open positions, build up the reserve police officer program, work toward a radio change with training and recognize and reward staff to reduce turnover.
Walker told the board in his proposal that since his employment in July 2016, LPD has lost 13 officers; two full-time officers, two chiefs, one assistant chief (retired), and eight reserve officers.
In addition, Walker, with experience in vehicle maintenance and repair, will continue to keep the Town’s car fleet in working condition.
Other plans call for increased community relations, and communication with town employees and the public.
Walker previously has been a police officer for Chickasha, Prague, Mid-America Christian University and the Department of Air Force.
At the meeting, the Town board also approved a step increase pay scale for the police department. During discussion Trustee Jeff Schwarzmeier said he was opposed to raises without merit. Cavin explained that the Town and Police Department has lacked continuity in the past because of turnover in leadership at the police department, board and town staff. Consequently there was a pattern of promised raises being left un-awarded and employee evaluations were non-existent. There was assurances that neither police officers nor any town employee would earn pay increases without an employee evaluation and recommendation.
Luther police officer pay begins at about $13 per hour.
“We are trying to develop procedures to be professional and transparent, and so everyone knows what to expect going forward,” Cavin said. Related, the board approved pay increases to Town Court & Utility Clerk Niki Taylor and Town Manager Scherrie Pidcock.
The police department has been short-staffed with only three full-time shift officers, plus the school resource officer and no reservists. The department will be advertising to hire two full-time officers and reservists.
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Fewer Tickets Written
As interim chief, Walker submitted the April police statistic report. There is a striking difference in the number of tickets written from the month before. April had 72 traffic stops with 34 citations issues and 58 warnings, according to the report. The March report listed 153 citations issued.
Code Enforcement Officer
Luther’s new Code Enforcement Officer has been working for nearly a month. Officer Timothy Kyle submitted a report to the board that lists his April activity in and around Main Street stretching to Apple, Birch and Fifth. Of 13 cases opened, Kyle reported he issued 12 warnings for high grass and debris, one warning each for an abandoned trailer, dilapidated structure and abandoned vehicle. The report said that three owners mowed and cleaned up the properties following receipt of the warning; five warnings had no response and the others are in process.
Mayor, Vice Mayor and Liaisons
In other action at the May meeting, board members selected Jenni White to continue as mayor and Paxton Cavin to serve as deputy/vice mayor. The board members choose their leadership from among themselves, and the roles come without compensation. White was selected as mayor following a landmark election in 2017 when four new board members were voted to the five-member panel. The board also assigned liaison duties to assist and report to the board on issues and requests. White, Cavin and Trandy Langston will continue in their liaison duties over fire department, police department and planning/board of adjustment respectively. Schwarzmeier will be the staff/office liaison and Brian Hall will help with the Luther Public Works Authority.
The board also discussed its new budget and will plan a public hearing in days ahead before it’s implementation on July 1, 2019.