Letter to the Editor

Your view: Response to SpeakOut "Plain ol' concern"

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Dear Mike:

I recently read a SpeakOut comment in your paper that causes me some concern, and I feel that it is important I address the issues that were raised in that particular article. The focus of the article was staffing and the number of officers that are on the street at any given time in the city.

Currently, our minimum staffing level is three officers and a supervisor on each watch. Our watches are: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.; from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. and 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. We also run a Powershift in the evening that runs from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. That shift is staffed Tuesday through Saturday.

The concern of the SpeakOut comment was that we only had three officers on the street at a time. While that is the minimum staffing that we currently have, due to our level of employment, that statement is not totally correct. We have the Powershift, which overlaps two different watches Tuesday through Saturday. The Powershift has three officers and a supervisor on it. One of the officers is a Canine Officer. Their job assignment is to work high crime areas or special assignments as needed, or as the call load dictates throughout the City. So, let's look at an average Friday night. On an average Friday night, if we have minimum staffing, (some Friday nights we do, some Friday nights we do not) that would be three officers and a supervisor. When the Powershift is scheduled, it gives us an additional four officers. So that is eight officer; not counting the detective that we have on duty during that period, which would then be nine officers. That does not take into account for training time, sick time, vacation time, which could diminish those numbers to some degree.

While the concerns of the SpeakOut article mainly addressed police division, I must also remind everyone that we are a public safety department. We also staff three fire stations. Each of the outlying fire stations has one Public Safety Officer, who is a certified Police Officer and Fire Fighter, on duty. The center station has four personnel on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days per year. All of these individuals are crossed trained, and may be used during emergency situations for police functions. Many times we utilize Fire Division staffing to assist in booking, located at Public Safety Headquarters, or scene security at a major incident, or security at a scene that does not require constant attention. This is the advantage to having a public safety agency, versus separate police and fire agencies. We have the ability to be flexible in our personnel assignment and scheduling.

The subject was brought up in the article about raises. It has been several years since the officers have gotten a raise. However, each year, they have received a bonus which has increased their yearly income for that year. The issue of raises is a work in progress. It is something that we work with every day and try to state our case to the City Council and to the city manager, so that we can get raises for the officers. But again, we have to look at the total income situation for the City and make sure that the money is there to provide the raises for the officers. The Mayor, on many occasions, has stated his commitment to make sure the officers are the best paid and best equipped in the State. I believe that commitment, and I will continue to work diligently with him and the City Manager to try to give the officers the best salary, as the best well as benefits package than we can afford as a city.

With that all said, I can guarantee you that we are taking our manpower situation and we are putting as many people as we can on the streets at any given time. There are very few nights that there are only three officers on the street. But, with our current staffing situation, that is the minimum staffing levels that we have.

Should you have any further questions or comments, I would be glad to try to answer them.

Respectfully submitted,

Drew Juden Director of Public Safety