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Seymour ascends from captain to chief after the retirement of Dale Cummins as part of established succession plan

PHOTO COURTESY OF PRINEVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT - New Prineville Police Chief Larry Seymour has prepared for his role for the past six years, while serving as captain.Larry Seymour admits that hearing "chief" attached to his name is a bit surreal.

It makes sense when considering he has held the title of captain at the Prineville Police Department for the past six years. He has even had a few moments since his recent promotion where he accidentally refers to himself as captain, which amuses him and his staff alike.

But that doesn't mean he feels unprepared for the job. Those past six years as captain were all part of a succession plan set in motion when Dale Cummins took the reins and chose Seymour as his second in command. The plan, from the beginning, was for Cummins to serve for about five to seven years and prepare Seymour to take over when he retired. That time has finally come — Cummins called it a career on July 1.

Seymour joined the Prineville Police Department as a patrol officer in 2004. During his tenure, he has worked as a field training officer, narcotic K-9 handler, Community Emergency Response Team operator, narcotics detective and patrol sergeant, the job he held when he was promoted to captain.

While he was captain, he attended the FBI National Academy and graduated in 2017. In addition, he holds an associate's degree in criminal justice, a bachelor's degree in criminal justice administration through Columbia Southern University and hold all Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training certifications from basic to executive.

Throughout the duration of the succession plan, Seymour was enabled to develop programs while overseeing the operations of the entire police department. He points to the Random Acts of Kindness program, a holidays program in which police officers give out gift cards donated by local businesses during minor traffic stops. He got the idea from an agency where he served as a volunteer police reserve officer. That agency gave out cash, but Seymour said he wanted the program to include local businesses, which prompted the idea of gift cards.

Seymour also launched a Humanizing the Badge program with local youth. In addition to keeping officer stats for traffic stops, stats are kept for "community policing."

"They will try to make efforts to have those non-law enforcement contacts with kids from 2 years old to adults," he explained, adding that police give out ice cream gift cards for "getting caught doing good."

The program also includes "summer uniforms," where officers wear cowboy hats and jeans, rather than the usual uniform.

"My goal is to make us more approachable as police officers," he said.

While the succession plan greased the wheels for a smooth transition from captain to chief, Seymour noted that the change is also aided by him and Cummins sharing a similar philosophy regarding the vision and mission of the department. The vision is "to greatly diminish crime and the fear of criminal activity through collaboration, persistence and innovation. The mission is to "project and serve all citizens while holding steadfast to our core values and the criminal justice code of ethics." Seymour will continue to stress emphases on fairness in process, transparency, allowing for voice and impartiality in decision-making, as well as integrity, service, respect, courage and compassion.

"We have tons of support from our citizens and that is something we cannot show enough appreciation for," he said, noting that not all police departments are as fortunate, due to recent national events and subsequent protests against law enforcement.

PHOTO COURTESY OF PRINEVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT - Swearing in ceremony of Larry Seymour, conducted by Steve Forrester, with the new chief taking the reins on July 1, 2022.The current political climate and a dearth of workers throughout numerous industries has created staffing difficulties, one of the primary challenges Seymour expects to face as he steps into the chief role.

In addition to the protests and national reputation of law enforcement, hiring is hampered by the competition for officers among different agencies and the time it takes to get a new officer ready for the job.

Seymour noted that the Prineville department has recently looked for lateral hires, which reduces the training time necessary, but that option has become more popular among other agencies, thinning the hiring pool. Meanwhile, it can take almost a year to train a new hire. That effort involves an interview process, testing, a thorough background check, psychological evaluation and drug testing — all of which takes a couple of months. Then, they need to attend the police academy, which is currently a five-month wait followed by four months at the academy. Once they complete the academy, another 16-week training program awaits at the local agency.

But hiring is only one piece of the staffing puzzle.

"It's not just finding staffing, it's retaining the staff," Seymour said. "That's more how you get treated internally."

He explained that the department values not only guide how they interact with citizens but with staff as well.

"We give officers voice. We have transparency within our department," he said. "It seems to work for the employees and help us retain what staff that we have."

Going forward, Seymour hopes to establish work groups that serve a dual function. He has noticed during his time at the department that patrol staff tends to mostly work and interact with each other while administration often does the same. The work groups would bring staff from both patrol and admin, encouraging them to work more closely.

In addition to bridging patrol and admin staff, the work groups would focus on different department needs. Seymour is targeting officer wellness as an initial focus, which he said ties back to staff retention.

Seymour takes on the chief role with plans to continue the succession plan that aided his transition. He will try his best to find a captain whose ideology and philosophy aligns with his and groom. He plans to work about 10 more years and during his final five years, he intends to prepare that captain for the chief role.

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