New chief in town
Wayne Longo will wear his Idaho State Police uniform through the end of the week, but they were already calling him chief Wednesday evening at a public meeting.
Longo, whose new job as Coeur d’Alene’s police chief begins Monday, answered questions from residents concerned about everything from gangs to drugs to violent crime. He talked about confronting those problems head on.
“The best testament to law enforcement is the absence of crime,” Longo said, “not the number of people we throw in jail.”
About 25 citizens, politicians, City Council candidates and city employees attended the community meeting, billed as a chance for residents to weigh in on a recent assessment of the Police Department and meet the new chief.
Longo, 54, replaces retiring Chief Wendy Carpenter, who worked her way through the ranks of the department in a 30-year career. She started as a meter reader and was promoted to chief four years ago.
Carpenter said it will be an easy transition to chief for Longo, who oversees the patrol operations in Idaho’s five northern counties and is well-known in the community.
Longo said he enjoyed spending time out of the office, patrolling highways and responding to accidents when extra help was needed.
“If there’s nobody available and I’m sitting at my desk, shame on me if I don’t say, ‘I’m available. I’ll go,’ ” Longo said in a recent interview.
Carpenter said Longo may find it a little more challenging to spend as much time in the field as police chief, supervising a staff of 85.
“There are times you have to sit in the chair,” she said.
Longo said one of his first priorities will be to meet with every employee, hopefully within his first month on the job. He said he’s not starting work with the idea of making drastic changes.
Instead, he wants to hear what the community and police employees say needs to be changed.
“I’m not a person who’s going to fix something that’s not broken,” he said.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Longo listened as residents told him what’s right with the department and what needs improvement.
Frank Gabriel suggested the city add more motorcycle units to respond to emergencies faster as the streets grow congested.
Dorothy Metz had concerns about gangs.
“What are (the police) going to do about the gangs?” she asked. “We don’t need that kind of thing here.”
Longo said he wants the city to remain proactive with school resource officers in local schools. The city needs to commit to enough officers in the schools as the town and school district grow, he said.
Carpenter and Longo said maintaining the level of service the community expects as Coeur d’Alene grows is one of the biggest issues facing the department.
A New York native, Longo began his career with the Idaho State Police in 1976. He soon was transferred to Coeur d’Alene, where he has since lived.
He is married with two grown children.
Though he’s had opportunities to advance in his career with the state police, Longo said he turned down promotions to stay here because of the quality of life in North Idaho.
He planned to work for the state police until retirement, but then Carpenter announced her retirement. Longo was chosen from dozens of candidates nationwide.
With a 3 percent raise scheduled for October, Longo will earn about $85,000 a year.
As excited as he is to begin the new job, Longo said he’s sad to leave the state police. He has slowly packed his office, carting out belongings when no one else is around.
“It’s tough for me to walk past my staff,” he said.
“It’s hard leaving people you worked with forever.”