GRANGEVILLE — It’s a smooth transition as outgoing Grangeville police chief Morgan Drew works beside incoming new chief Joe Newman. With about 30 years of law enforcement background, Newman takes charge of a six-person department overseeing city law enforcement when Drew steps down in mid-December. The pair have similar experience and also perspective on what the position entails and what is most important to maintain.
“Morgan and I are very similar in that it’s about building relationships with the community,” Newman said, noting Drew has maintained focused direction during his nine years as chief. “That’s really important. Citizens want stability, they want to know we’re here to do a good job. Morgan has done a good job in building those relationships, keeping a firm hand on the tiller. That’s an outstanding legacy to walk out the door with.”
Drew announced his retirement to the city council in September and recommended Newman to be advanced from within the department to succeed him as chief. His salary is $67,993.
Newman’s background includes working for the Kootenai, Lewis and Clearwater sheriff’s offices, and lastly for the Kamiah Marshal’s Office (KMO) as chief for 10 years before retiring in 2017. At an invitation from Drew, Newman came to work part time for the Grangeville Police Department (GPD) about a year ago, and started full time on Oct. 5. He and his wife, Dottie, have three adult children, ages 29, 26 and 22.
“I’ve done just about every job description in law enforcement,” Newman said, from patrol and resident deputy, field training officer, investigator, SWAT, supervisor and juvenile probation. “Just a wide variety of things, which I think really helps to have a wide spectrum, instead of being focused on one thing.”
“In a small department, where basically you have to handle anything that comes your direction in some form or another, whether knowing the right people to call because it’s more than you can handle with the people you have, or the day-to-day stuff,” Drew said, “having that depth of experience lends itself really well to a department of this size.”
Newman’s concern is about stability, noting he’s not coming with the need to change things — “I’ve built a department from the ground up in the past before, so I don’t have any ambition to do that over again,” he said.
“My ambition here is to incrementally make improvements where they can be made,” he continued.
One is with officer recruitment and retention, which is difficult at this time across the country, but it can also be locally. “Grangeville is the greatest place to be a police officer right now,” Newman said, but for those coming from areas with access to services right around the corner, finding out the Wal-Mart is 75 miles away, “That can be a big problem for them.” Another is in providing equipment and rotating this before it becomes obsolete, “and we have to do that in the most fiscally responsible way as possible.”
“A lot of new chiefs think they have to change the outward appearance of the department to suit their needs,” he said. “I have no desire to upset the apple cart on that. We have great officers who have good rapport with the community. Why would I want to change those dynamics? Those are the things we want to continue. The things we need to change are the housekeeping,” in providing equipment, technology and training. “My job as chief is to make sure my guys have all that so they can do the good job I know they can do.”
Newman and Drew have known each other for years, and have worked together when Newman was KMO marshal. Drew said it “took a huge burden off” to hand over the department to Newman, “who’s a friend, who you trust, who I’ve worked with before... and who is a really good fit. We’ve talked a lot over the years and look at things similarly, so it will be nice to make a smooth transition.”
On that, Drew said when he came on as GPD chief nine years ago, it was to some turmoil within the department.
“That is what I wanted to avoid when I chose to retire,” he continued, “that we weren’t in turmoil, that the department continues to function as normal, that citizens when they pick up the phone and dial 911 they know we are here for them.”
With the Idaho County Sheriff’s Office right across the street at the courthouse, Newman said he looks forward to working together, whether it is with criminals they may have in common, or on training so officers with both agencies will be at the same levels of ability and proficiency.
“The new sheriff and his administration have their hands full to run their department, and we’re here to be supportive,” he said. Newman doesn’t have issues with the outgoing ICSO administration or the incoming. “I’m looking forward to collaborating wherever we can.”
Drew said this past month has been a good transition in working together and in helping introduce Newman to as much of the community as they were able.
“One thing my dad always told me early on is to leave things better than you found them, and I’m hoping I left the P.D. better than I found it,” Drew said. “I hope the citizenry of Grangeville are happy with how their P.D. has been over the last nine years. Legacy-wise, it isn’t the cars, it isn’t the equipment. It’s the relationships you’ve had with people that’s important; the guys you’ve worked with in the department, the people in the city, people in the community. Those relationships are what it’s all about in doing law enforcement, especially in a small community.”