Farewell to the chief

Richland Police Chief Tony Corsi might be turning in his badge after nine years as the top cop and 37 years in law enforcement, but he won't be sitting around the house with nothing to do.

The veteran lawman's last day on the job is today, but he still will be working part time at the Benton County dispatch center on some projects. He also will be traveling across the country consulting and lecturing about organization development and leadership for Pennsylvania State University.

"On Tuesday I leave for the Philadelphia Police Department to lecture at their police academy," said Corsi, who turns 57 today. "There's only so much fishing and so much golf. You get bored."

Corsi, a Philadelphia native who said he didn't plan to stay in Richland as long as he did, was lauded Thursday at a standing-room-only goodbye party in the police department's training room. Law enforcement and fire officials from around the Tri-Cities, along with city leaders, presented him with plaques and shared stories.

One gift was a 10-weight steelhead flyfishing rod and a guided float trip on the Grande Ronde River in Oregon.

Corsi gave credit to his officers, administrative staff, Richland City Manager Cindy Johnson and former city manager John Darrington and Richland residents with making the police department what it is today.

"It's been a heck of a ride," he said. "The citizens really support the Richland Police Department, and the officers themselves need a lot of kudos."

He also met the "woman of my dreams," his wife, Wendy, in Richland.

Corsi said he took the chief's job with a goal to evaluate the organization, find areas that needed fixing and making those changes.

"I like going in and changing an organization and try to find a better way to do things," he said. "I tried to make it the most efficient and effective for taxpayers."

He developed an easier and simpler mission statement for the department, identified the product the department provides -- safety and service -- and identified priorities -- crime, traffic and quality of life.

With those guidelines he was able to make the best use of his limited resources, which included forming the Proactive Anti-Crime Team.

The crime rate has dropped 36 percent since 2001, but Corsi said statistics are just statistics. It's the partnerships with other area law enforcement agencies that really make an impact on criminals in the Tri-Cities, he said.

"I come from a large metropolitan area and you do not see the cooperation among law enforcement agencies as you do in the Tri-Cities," he said.

Capt. Mike Cobb, who will be the interim chief, said Corsi was able to come with an outside view of things and make changes that they didn't even know needed to be made, but that were "extremely beneficial."

"He's definitely leaving the organization better for sense of mission, for sense of purpose and with better leadership than he found it," Cobb said. "The increases in accountability and responsiveness to the different challenges we face every single day is at a much different level."

Cobb said Corsi's been a "very good mentor and very good friend," and he's humbled to be appointed to stand in as chief while a new chief is being chosen.

The next chief needs to be a leader who continues the partnerships in the community and trusts his officers and noncommissioned staff, Cobb said.

Corsi said the next chief needs to have a citywide view of the department to help develop a new strategic plan, target recruiting toward the younger Generation Y and start incorporating new technology into police services.