The Powell City Council planned to consider his retirement at its regular Monday night meeting.
In an interview Friday, Feathers said he’s been pondering retirement for a while.
“It’s a process that involved a lot of introspection, a lot of wise counsel from my wife and trusted friends and came to the point where that was decided — it was time,” he said.
When Feathers became chief in the summer of 1998, he said the primary challenges for the department were technological ones — such as devceloping integrated communications systems and tightening up policy and procedures. Now, those challenges generally have been met, and a focus on building relationships — inside the department, with other law enforcement agencies and with the Powell community — is needed.
“We have good solid functional relationships in all of (those areas), but I can tell you that every last one of them can be improved,” he said.
Speaking specifically of the police department’s relationship with the community, Feathers said it “needs to be taken to the next level ... so that it is more participative and interactive.” The department’s recent citizen police academies, its Facebook page and crime prevention literature posted on its website are steps taken towards a more active relationship, he said, but more work and an inspirational vision is needed. Feathers said he thinks it’s best for someone else to take those steps; while policy and procedures are a strength for him, building relationships has proved more difficult.
“In the end, it was just an assessment of when I took a look at where the department needed to go, that I didn’t have the skill set or the energy to take it there, and that led me to the conclusion that I had probably contributed all I was able to contribute,” he said.
Feathers gave City Administrator Zane Logan an early heads-up that he was considering retirement. Logan asked him to give the city 90 days notice, which he did.
Under the city’s charter, it’s up to Logan to choose Feathers’ replacement.
After he explains the situation to the City Council, Logan said he likely will get together with another city staffer and a councilman to talk about the selection process.
Typically, the council isn’t involved in such hiring decisions, but the police chief “is an important position in the city as well as the community,” he said.
More people also could end up involved as things develop, Logan said, as he has “no preconceived notions” about how the process will work.
“It’s something I plan to get going on right away,” he said.
Logan said he hopes to use December as a transition month for the new chief.
Feathers’ retirement comes at a time of numerous personnel changes at the department. Twenty-year department veteran Dave Brown retired in May, and long-time Officer Kevin Schmidt plans to retire at the end of the month.
Two new officers hired in July, Jason Pellegrino and Reese McLain, are just completing their field training, and the department is beginning to advertise for another vacant position following Sgt. Mike Chretien’s death in August in an off-duty vehicle crash in Montana.
Officer Chad Miner was promoted to fill Chretien’s sergeant position last week, pending the completion of training.
The Police Department has been at least one patrol officer short of a full staff (three sergeants and nine officers) for the past year, in part due to a city hiring freeze.
Feathers said a year ago that the department could temporarily have one fewer officer, but not indefinitely. Now, he said the retirements, death, injuries and other commitments — such as having an officer currently participating in a three-week federal drug trial — have caught up to the department.
“It’s hit us,” Feathers said of being below full patrol staff. “It’s caught up with us, and we need to remedy that quickly, because from this point on, it’s only going to really start to impact our operations and our overall operational readiness.”
He said it already has affected the department’s training and is resulting in accumulated overtime.
Overall, the changes in the department and a young staff will bring challenges, Feathers said, but also opportunities for the new police chief to mold the department.
“I think the department’s in good health, and it’s ready for that change, so it’s really a very opportunistic time,” Feathers said. “I think the department’s poised and ready to take that step to the next level. ... I think all the department needs is the leadership to make it happen.”
Editor's note: This version's corrects the month of Sgt. Chretien's death.