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GIBSON CITY - Gibson City's new police chief wants the Gibson City Council to redefine the department's second-in-command position - and he wants the chief he succeeded a week ago to fill it.

Chief Steve Cushman has asked the City Council to drop the position of assistant police chief and replace it with one for a lieutenant. The council could act on the request when it meets on Feb. 27.

He recommended former Police Chief Chris Decker, who remains on the force as an officer after a controversial demotion, take the position. As lieutenant, Decker would be second in command to the chief, Cushman said.

He also asked that Decker, who Cushman says has "great investigative skills," be named the department's chief investigator.

"The title of assistant chief is usually reserved for larger departments with several layers of officers," Cushman said. Currently, Gibson City police officers can be designated only as patrol officers, assistant chief or chief.

The pay for the new position hasn't been decided. Decker will continue to collect his chief's salary of $50,000 a year through May.

City officials continue to decline to comment on why Decker was removed as chief.

"I can assure you this action was not politically motivated," Mayor Dan Dickey said.

Dickey admitted he sent an e-mail in his 2005 campaign for office that denied rumors that he planned to remove Decker if elected.

Cushman acknowledges there is some controversy over his appointment as police chief, but insists he is getting along well with Decker and settling in as head of the department.

Cushman, a 26-year veteran of police work, has spent one week in his new position.

His top priority is the department's manpower shortage, he said.

Cushman said officers are working 12-hour shifts and their days off are erratic.

He is greatly concerned about both the fatigue factor and the poor home life for officers.

His goal is to have officers working eight-hour shifts with regular days off.

In 2000, Gibson City's police department employed eight full-time officers. At present, that number is down a third since then to five officers, including the new chief.

Cushman is recommending at least two officers be hired as quickly as possible.

As part of the current budget process, he and the City Council face contract negotiations with the city's new police union. Cushman said officers voted to unionize in October 2005.

Cushman, an 11-year resident of Gibson City, remains an instructor at the University of Illinois Police Training Institute. He retired in 2002 from the city of Champaign's police force.

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