In a one-week span the Platte City Police Department went from being led by chief Carl Mitchell to being led by interim chief Lynda Hacker-Bristow.
During the Platte City public safety committee meeting on Monday, Sept. 10, an update regarding the police department was provided in which Mitchell and Lt. Al Devalkenaere were reassigned temporarily to work with the city administrator and assistant city administrator for at least the next 30 days.
While they are gone an evaluation of the department will be undertaken to look at ‘cultural issues’ and that will be done as ‘rapidly as possible,’ according to city administrator DJ Gehrt.
According to documents provided — and open to the public — Gehrt’s staff report noted multiple officers have reported new or continued concerns to elected officials. Some officers showed up the council meeting in late August to discuss issues, but an agreement was made to have the city attorney to handle the situation.
The two highest ranking Platte City officers were reassigned to eliminate any perception of involvement or influence, Gehrt said.
In place of Mitchell’s leadership the city got an assist from the Platte County Sheriff’s Office, which allowed Lynda Hacker-Bristow to serve as the interim chief.
A long-time officer for the Kansas City (Mo.) Police Department and later spending a decade teaching future officers at the police academy, Hacker-Bristow has been with PCSO for a little more than a year.
“It is honor to be asked to assist the city for the next month or two,” interim chief Hacker stated in a press release. “It is especially gratifying to serve with the Platte City department as I know many of the officers from past experience or from having them in my training classes.”
She becomes the first female chief in Platte City history and will have the interim title for at least 30 days. How long after that depends on how the inquiry by Katie Worthington, an attorney hired to handle the evaluation, takes. She will report to city attorney Jennifer Snider.
Gehrt noted that all elected city officials as well as officers will have a chance to talk with Worthington, though with some officers working various shifts it may take some time.
“We want a clean slate to look at what is going on,” Gehrt said.
The goal of the investigation wants is that all employees should feel they are able to openly express workplace concerns and/or their recommendations for improving departmental culture; an objective review to assess, evaluate and report on the culture and the city continues to provide high quality safety during the assessment.
Crime, overall, is down according to numbers under Mitchell, who took over in 2010.
He replaced Richard Sayles, who was chief from 2005 to December 2009. Former chief Bill Massock, who held the role from 1999 to 2002, was the interim chief before Mitchell started.
Hacker-Bristow was introduced as the interim chief on Sept. 17, a week earlier than scheduled according to notes in Gehrt’s report.
“Having Lynda provide experienced leadership will ensure our department continues to provide high quality public safety service while chief Mitchell and lt. DeValkenaere are temporarily assigned to other duties,” Mayor Frank Offutt said in a press release.