What They’re Thinking: Marion’s new police chief starting to put touches on force

MARION — It has been an active first few months for new Marion Police Chief Joseph McHale.

Since coming in December from the Kansas City, Mo. Police Department, where he spent 25 years, McHale has been keeping busy. He has already begun the process of applying tactics that proved successful in Kansas City to Marion, such as studying social networks in the community to better combat crime.

The Marion Police Department employs 45 officers and 12 civilian employees, according to the city’s website. McHale took over from Harry Daugherty, who retired in June 2016 after 20 years as chief.

More than three months into his new role, McHale said he still is settling in and putting his personal touches on the police department.

His take on the differences between police work in Kansas City and Marion:

“When it comes to policing, whether it’s an agency that has 2,000 people — like Kansas City — or 55 (people) like Marion — it’s the same. You’re dealing with the same problems. It’s scale.”

On changes he’d like to bring to the Marion department:

“I have to set up the police department for growth. Not that they have been doing anything bad here. For example, they never had a commanding officer that worked past 4 p.m. I had to adjust the command structure to provide oversight and supervision. I promoted a gentleman. … He’s going to be the first night commander for the Marion Police Department. That was a big change.”

On creating a “power shift” for the police department:

“We don’t need the same amount of staff at 5 a.m. that we do at 5 p.m. I decided to do a power shift. I put officers on a schedule that’s Wednesday through Saturday. They’ll work from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m.

“I also put a supervisor on that same power shift. That way, I can have supervision and at least two officers out during our shift change at 10 p.m. That’s a time when we’re vulnerable.”

On Marion’s reputation and educating the public:

“We do ourselves a little bit of a disservice when we say we’re one of the safest communities in Iowa. We are. But, we also need to educate our citizens that there is crime and it does happen.”

On upcoming events to build relationships with the community:

“In May, I’m going to host a group from Kansas City called Mothers in Charge. They’re a group of women that have lost children to homicide. They helped us bridge the gap in Kansas City between the police and the community.”

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