Arizona Highway Patrol leader demoted
by JJ Hensley
The Arizona Republic Nov. 3, 2011
The leader of the Arizona Highway Patrol was demoted last week following an employee survey that blamed Lt. Col. Jack Hegarty for low morale in the agency and a committee’s recommendation that Hegarty be removed.
But Department of Public Safety Director Robert Halliday said his decision to move Hegarty was not based solely on the survey or committee recommendation but included other factors related to Hegarty’s leadership.
Regardless of the reasons, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police, which commissioned the survey in the spring, said he welcomed the decision.
“You have to remember that the head of the Highway Patrol division supervises currently around 800 employees,” said DPS Sgt. John Ortolano. “When you have that many employees directly under one person’s ultimate control, it can have a dramatic effect.”
Hegarty said Wednesday evening that he would do whatever was best for the agency.
“I’m happy to serve at the pleasure of the director and look forward to serving in whatever position he sees fit,” he said.
Hegarty said he now holds the rank of captain.
The demotion came after a police-union survey taken in the spring found that nearly 70 percent of the respondents would go to work for another law-enforcement agency if they could, citing widespread dissatisfaction with DPS administrators as the main reason.
Hegarty’s name came up repeatedly in the survey.
After the survey, Halliday established a committee made up of members of both DPS-officer unions as well as agency employees, with a retired Phoenix police commander as the chairman.
The committee came up with a series of recommendations for Halliday to restore confidence in the agency, and again Hegarty’s name was at the top of the proposed changes.
The committee cited Hegarty’s “disruptive leadership” and wrote that Hegarty’s reclassification in the agency would immediately improve morale and Halliday’s credibility.
But Halliday said the survey alone and the resulting recommendation were not the only reasons he moved Hegarty.
“There were some other people outside the agency that were pretty unhappy with him in state government,” Halliday said. “It really wasn’t the survey that did it. That was just one of the indicators.”
The committee made other recommendations for improving morale at DPS that Halliday said were being implemented, including his decision to turn the day-to-day operations of the agency over to another commander and increasing oversight to ensure that employees are not transferred for punitive reasons.
Certain factors remain out of Halliday’s control.
The agency has not hired new employees since 2008, continues to pay officers lower than many other law-enforcement agencies in the state and its employees saw their benefits package reduced last year due to the state’s budget crisis, Halliday said.
Last year, DPS administrators revealed that after years of leaving positions vacant to cope with the state budget crisis, the DPS air unit was able to respond to fewer than half of the calls for service it once did.
“We’re hopeful this is going to be a better year,” Halliday said of the state budget.
The problems brought up in the survey reflected some of the widespread concern that arose from longtime DPS employees after Gov. Jan Brewer appointed Halliday to his post in January 2010, citing Halliday’s 35 years of experience with DPS and ability to lift morale among employees.
Halliday immediately began overhauling the agency, demoting a dozen officers and installing Hegarty as his second-in-command.
Ortolano said employees were skeptical that Halliday would follow the recommendation for Hegarty’s removal.
“It shows that the director is listening to the employees,” Ortolano said.