Interim chief of police reflects on his time in Quincy
At a moment early last year when the Quincy Police Department appeared to need a steady hand at the tiller, the city hired Bill Larson as its interim chief of police.
To some, such a job might have appeared to come with too much potential turmoil. And someone taking a temporary position might tend to just mark time without much concern for results. But Larson earned praise for his work in leading the department and paving the way for city to hire its permanent chief of police, Kieth Siebert.
At the Dec. 19 meeting of the Quincy City Council, then-Mayor Jim Hemberry thanked Larson, who was not at the meeting, for working as the interim chief of police.
“I think that Bill did an outstanding job,” Hemberry said. “He brought a real air of professionalism to the unit, and I think that Chief Siebert’s just going to continue that from what I have seen. I think we are moving in the right direction, and I really want to thank Bill for that.”
At an all-staff training meeting, the Quincy Police Department also thanked Larson, presenting him a plaque, for his work as interim chief of police, and, during December when Siebert had started as chief, as deputy chief.
The department said in a public statement that Larson “dedicated his time improving morale, hiring officers to fill several vacancies and building trust within the agency.
“Thank you Deputy Chief Larson for your hard work and dedication to the Quincy Police Department and the citizens of Quincy.”
Nine months in Quincy
Larson took a little time to talk with the Post-Register before his job in Quincy was done at the end of 2017. He gave his insights and thoughts about what he tried to accomplish and about the Quincy Police Department.
Larson is from Wenatchee and is 61 years old. He had worked 28 years for the Washington State Patrol and was retired when he took the job in Quincy. He said he is not leaving Quincy to go to another law enforcement agency but is taking time for his personal life.
Looking back, he said his appointment in Quincy came unexpectedly. When he was contacted, he said he had to do a self-assessment and find out what Quincy was looking for, so he could be confident that he could meet the expectations and contribute.
“What I wanted to do was make a difference, not to just come in and hold the fort or be a figurehead,” Larson said. “I wanted my time here to count. Maybe that’s the best way to put it.”
He said he felt he could make a difference by seizing opportunities to create a greater sense of unity and greater sense of camaraderie, trust and teamwork and to boost morale in the department while providing a clear direction.
His first action out of the blocks was to define a mission and a vision statement and to define some agency values, “to build that sense of trust and working together in one direction to achieve a common goal,” he said.
Larson recalled that he had been asked to provide some stability and leadership, as well as to help create a situation in which the officers who came to work for the Quincy Police Department would have a stronger desire to stay and continue to work for many years.
He had been out of law enforcement for nine years, and because of the time lapse he said he was not able to have full police powers reinstated, and the city leaders didn’t really want him to take time to get reinstated. That is why he did not wear a uniform in Quincy.
“Knowing I had an abbreviated assignment, I wanted to set it up so that the new chief, when he or she came in, that the agency was heading in the right direction, that it would be an easy transition,” Larson said, “so that the new chief could build on what I had started.”
He actively sought to enlist the support of everyone in the department to get them working together so that when he left, Siebert could take the things Larson did and take them to the next level, while incorporating his own expertise.
Siebert was a great choice for the job, according to Larson, and in the short time that they overlapped in the department, he said he could see the staff responded positively to Siebert’s leadership.
“He is already being proactive. He is not sitting back and watching,” Larson said at the end of December.
In his view of Siebert, Larson said he values everyone for what they bring to the table, but Siebert is pretty driven and has ideas of his own – a style that Larson seemed to appreciate.
“I am a firm believer in participative management, understanding that we all bring value to the table, every employee, and we can all be contributors, not just the manager or leader at the top,” Larson said. “I believe the pinnacle of success is when you have the organization involved and (people on staff) have some ownership and they can come up with ideas that maybe management has not come up with before. I focused on that starting out here.”
Along with giving people in an organization some opportunity to have some “ownership,” Larson believes in recognizing them for the good work they do. In that line of thinking, Larson began a formal awards and recognition program in the police department.
“I feel like that’s gone a long way,” Larson said. “It sounds like a simple concept, but not every organization pays attention to that.”
The formal program has levels of recognition: Chief’s Coins, which are substantial medallions with a police badge on one side; the second level of recognition is a paper certificate Commendation Award; and the third level is the Distinguished Service Award on a wooden plaque.
He intended to go beyond an email or thank-you to individuals in the department as part of communicating success.
“It’s like when you are playing basketball but not keeping score,” Larson said, “how do you know if you are succeeding.”
But these things take time to develop, he said.
“I am very satisfied with how the nine months went,” he said. “By nature … I don’t like to drag my feet.”
There are still opportunities to grow, develop and enhance operations, he said, but he feels the department is heading in the right direction.
How does he measure success?
“I see the camaraderie and the teamwork is greater than it was nine months ago, there are some common goals,” he said. “Employees are showing more motivation, and I think a higher level of job satisfaction and contentment in the workplace.
“This community, if they have not already seen signs, they will, of better things to come with Chief Siebert and the level of service and commitment from the men and women of the department.
“The quality of law enforcement services within the Quincy Police Department are getting better, and this community is going to recognize that,” Larson said.
As he wrapped up his time in Quincy, Larson reflected.
“This was a challenging assignment in a lot of ways, but it was really fulfilling and enjoyable. I am going to have a lot fond memories from my time here,” he said. It was “one of the highlights of my adult life having had this opportunity.”
By Dave Burgess, firstname.lastname@example.org