Bella Vista PD establishes patrol lieutenant position
The Bella Vista Police Department has added a new lieutenant position and promoted former sergeant Scott Vanatta to fill the spot.
Vanatta, who has been with the department 10 years and now occupies the patrol lieutenant position, said that his overall goal is ensuring the department’s patrol division functions smoothly.
“Anything patrol related comes to me,” he said.
Vanatta said he is in charge of the uniform division, training, staffing, scheduling, structure and supervision.
It’s a good position, he said, because it allows him to take on more responsibility without giving up field work. He spends roughly half his time in the office and the other half around the town supervising officers. Moreover, he said, he’s going to swing from shift to shift, ensuring he’ll work with officers on each of the department’s three shifts.
Chief James Graves said he was making this change to the department’s structure to ensure the police can operate more in line with federal and state guidelines. A common issue with smaller departments, he said, is limited administration and supervision.
“My prior patrol lieutenant was so bogged down with administrative functions … there wasn’t really time for him to be on patrol.”
That patrol lieutenant, Ryan Harmon, has been shifted to an administrative lieutenant position, where he will oversee dispatch, the property clerk and other administrative duties.
Graves said that it’s important to be able to get a patrol lieutenant in the field because it allows closer supervision of officers. A lack of supervision, he said, is one of the most frequently-cited issues when police departments face litigation, along with a lack of training.
This does not mean there are problems with how officers are operating, he said, but direct oversight can prevent issues and allow the department to better understand what’s going on with patrol and how to best support the uniform division’s efforts.
Between Lieutenants Vanatta, Harmon and Barb Shrum, who presides over the criminal investigation division, he said, the department also has more coverage for these supervisory roles. Ultimately, he said, he wants to see everyone cross-trained in these roles, ensuring that if someone is absent for any reason, others can pick up their duties. This, he said, makes the department a much stronger organization with fewer potential failure points.
Vanatta was chosen through an open promotion process, Graves said. It was a difficult choice, he said, with four internal applications for the position and eight or nine from outside the department. He narrowed it down to four candidates, he said, before making a final decision.
“I just wanted to make sure I had the best person for the job,” he said. “Vanatta just came out on top.”
Vanatta said he appreciates the promotion and he’s glad to know that chief Graves had enough faith in him to give him this level of responsibility. He’s also grateful, he said, for the sergeants who back him up in this role.
“It’s a lot more working components I have to oversee,” he said. “I don’t do it all alone, so it’s not overwhelming … It’s a lot, but we get it done.”