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Gulfport police shake-up begins

After just five months on the job, the police chief here is reorganizing the department to increase supervision and opportunities for promotions. "We want to give officers a path for advancement, improve the level of supervision and reduce our turnover rate to retain the quality personnel we have," Chief G. Curt Willocks said Tuesday.

No one in the department has been promoted since 1983, Willocks said.

As part of the first phase of the reorganization, the chief has created two new positions _ a lieutenant and a sergeant. The additional positions give the Gulfport Police Department two lieutenants and the ability to employ five sergeants.

The department, which has a budget of $1.65-million, was able to add the two positions this budget year because it has three vacancies in its patrol unit, Willocks said. The reorganization is expected to be complete by early September.

The patrol vacancies will not be filled, and the money for those positions will pay for the additional sergeant and lieutenant. The police department has 24 sworn officers and 14 civilian employees.

Willocks said one of the two lieutenants will supervise operations, including patrol, and the other will oversee investigations, records and communications.

Willocks said Tuesday that Pat Patterson was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant. He said he had not decided which supervisory position Patterson would fill. Lt. Carl Bockiaro had supervised all of the areas alone.

With Patterson's promotion, the department now has two sergeant vacancies. Tests will be given in August, and Willocks said he expects to promote two patrol officers to sergeant by September.

"The new lieutenant will allow more staff time to address community needs, and the additional sergeant will insure we have patrol supervisory coverage on a day-to-day basis," Willocks said.

Willocks said the reorganization was not connected with an internal affairs investigation that resulted in three police officers being disciplined in March.

The officers _ Detective Terry Taylor, crime scene technician Charles Brown and Sgt. Larry Tosi _ all received written reprimands for botching the handling of potential evidence taken from the house of Wayne Haynes, police said. Haynes, a former toll collector who became a crack user, was found dead in his bedroom in late 1989, police said.

Willocks said he wants enough sergeants to cover every patrol shift without senior officers supervising the shifts. He said the sergeants on the streets can be held accountable.

City Manager Robert E. Lee said the changes are better for the police officers and the city.