Rock Hill police to shift jobs

The Rock Hill Police Department will reorganize its personnel, a move that will essentially demote some senior officers while allowing other officers a chance to move up the department ladder.

"We were getting to glass ceilings in some positions," Rock Hill Police Chief John Gregory said. "If I don't have someone to vacate a position, I can't move up someone who might be qualified."

Five senior officers, whose ranks range from captain to police officer II, will be demoted under the reorganization. These officers previously retired from the police department and returned to work under state legislation that allows police officers at retirement's door to acquire their full retirement pay and continue working while earning their full salaries without salary caps.

Those affected by the reorganization are Capt. Charles Cabaniss, Detective Les Herring, Detective William "Willie" Burris, Lt. Jerry Waldrop and forensics member Todd Gardner.

"I kept people where they were for five years," Gregory said. "If I don't manage this, we will soon create glass ceilings. ... They (the senior officers) will be reduced to a lower slot to open that position up to someone else. Their salaries will change according to which rank they go to."

The reorganization doesn't sit well with Rock Hill City Councilman Kevin Sutton.

"These are longtime police officers," he said. "These men have been protecting the people of Rock Hill for years. I was still in elementary school when these men started their careers, and now they're being demoted.

"To me, you could nothing better than have a fully staffed police department with veteran officers," he added. "These guys still have many years to give."

Sutton said the City Council should have been asked to fund positions.

"I don't want to penalized those officers who are there in the career ladder program," he said. "I want them to get everything they're entitled to."

Sutton also is concerned that one department is being singled out. He said some retirees man senior positions in the city's Human Resources and Parks, Recreation and Tourism departments.

"My question to the city manager is how can you treat the police department like this and not human resources, PRT ...?" Sutton asked. "If the purpose is to move them out of the way, there are people in PRT and HR that we are holding back."

'Rank doesn't bother me'

Les Herring isn't bothered by the reorganization. After 25 years of service, Herring retired as a lieutenant from the department on Dec. 31, 2003. Sixteen days later, he returned. Now, he works as a senior officer.

"Rank doesn't bother me," he said. "I took a demotion five years ago."

Herring works with the men he once supervised, and he's fine with it.

"I have the best of both worlds," he said. "I am still in the detective division, and I'm still working with the same bunch of guys with less responsibility."

Reorganization, he said, allows senior leaders to turn over the baton.

"I wanted to be able to move up," he said. "I went through every rank at this department before I made lieutenant. I want other officers to have the same experience of moving up the ranks."

Capt. Charles Cabaniss also will be affected by the reorganization. He plans to stay with the department.

"The past 34 years of my life has been devoted to the Rock Hill Police Department and still is at this time," Cabaniss said. "I'm working with Chief Gregory to see if my experience can further the goals of the department."

Detective Willie Burris worked more than 30 years before retiring from the department in October 2003. Then he returned to the job he calls his lifeline.

"I like police work," said Burris, who has been back at the department for nearly five years. "I like dealing with people."

Still, Councilman Sutton disagrees with the move.

"I'm not going to sit and watch a group of men who have given of themselves tirelessly to protect the citizens of Rock Hill be treated this way," he said.

Still, Gregory said, the move is more about promoting than demoting.

"This helps us create positions," he said. "I'm creating more opportunities for our officers."

The reorganization could start by Christmas and wrap up in spring 2009, Gregory said.