MARION — Saying he’d use data to hone a strategy for the Marion Police Department when he took charge of it, Chief Joseph McHale is leaving less than three years later to become a research associate at a respected law enforcement nonprofit organization in Florida.
“I’m going to miss it,” McHale said in an interview Wednesday, a day after the city announced he’s leaving June 3. “I’ve loved being here in Marion, I’ve loved being a part of this community and I’ve loved working with this department. But sometimes an opportunity comes that you just can’t pass up, and this was it for me.”
The new position, McHale said, is with the Institute for Intergovernmental Research of Tallahassee, Fla. The nonprofit research and training organization specializes in law enforcement and homeland security issues.
“This opportunity presented itself in the past few weeks, and it was a good opportunity for me and my wife to not only relocate to Florida but to also be involved with this organization that is nationally respected,” he said. “Plus, I’ll still be able to keep my toes in the law enforcement waters, and work with law enforcement agencies across the country.”
According to the company’s website, it “has a proven history of promoting greater efficiency and effectiveness among local, state, tribal, and federal criminal justice agencies.”
As a research associate, McHale said it will be his job to “bridge the gaps” between Law enforcement, the government and the nonprofit “so that we can provide the assistance, do side evaluations, do new process evaluations and then offer the resources.
“There are so many resources out there for law enforcement agencies,” he said. “And it will be my job to make sure they are aware of those resources and that we get them on the right track through professional consulting, professional technical assistance and program management.”
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Additionally, Tallahassee is close to Macon, Ga., his hometown where much of his extended family lives.
McHale was hired in December 2016 from the Kansas City., Mo., department, where he had been commander of a patrol division.
In his first year in Marion, McHale made sweeping changes at the department that includes 46 sworn officers — assigning command staff to all three patrol shifts and to the investigations bureau; creating the positions of deputy chief, administrative manager and lead communications officer; partnering with the University of Iowa’s Public Policy Center on criminal intelligence and data-driven policing; and establishing a crisis intervention team to better respond to those suffering from mental illnesses.
He also pushed for the consolidation of Linn County’s three 911 call centers into one facility, which has not happened.
In the past year, McHale also rolled out the department’s five-year strategic plan that included adding 10 sworn officers and 12 civilian employees over the next five years, upgrading technology, restructuring the department, reorganizing staff and better prioritizing service calls and officer response.
“It’s a great plan,” he said. “But that’s not Joe McHale’s plan. That’s the city and the staff from my department coming together … with outside partners and the community and with other department heads to see where we want this department to be in five years and then working backward from there to set goals and objectives. And knowing that we have this excellent strategic plan makes leaving a little bit easier, because whoever takes my place can look at that plan and see where the department is headed.”
Marion Mayor Nicolas AbouAssaly said officials are just starting the process of “determining what the next steps are” in picking a new chief.
“We are working with the civil service commission, which manages the process and the identifying candidates in the hiring process,” he said.
AbouAssaly said there is no time frame yet for hiring a new chief.
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“It’s a very important role,” he said. “Marion is a growing city with growing needs and public safety is one of the most important services we provide.”
AbouAssaly said the impact McHale has had on the police department and the community is long-lasting.
“He trained his people well, and in his two years he’s has had a big impact. He came with a lot of experience and knowledge from a larger department, and he implemented more effective and efficient processes so that we are smarter in the way we do things.
“He also has been a great community member,” the mayor added. “He and his family were fully integrated in the community and truly enjoyed being a part of the community and I think that made a difference in his ability to do his job. I am sad to see him go.”
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