More officers considered for village

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Plain City could see a few additions to their police department staff.

Village council discussed the possibility of adding an officer or two to the department at the work session Wednesday night.

Conversations were had but council left any decisions on the table until they could decide the route to take.

Chief Dale McKee said that a lack of staffing has been an issue for the department for more than a year.

“I brought this up last year about hiring another police officer or two police officers but I know in February we were busy with the wage conversation so I held off,” McKee said. “But I feel like it’s time to hire another officer.”

He said the department has done a good job with minimal staff but the burden of shift coverage is taking a toll on the officers.

“With current staffing, we are only able to cover 34, eight-hour shifts, which is eight shifts less than needed,” McKee said. “This doesn’t take in account for vacation, comp time, personal leave, sick leave, department training, mandated training, court appearances, outreach program etc.”

He said there are frequently last-minute schedule changes to ensure officers are covered and so officers are not on shifts alone.

“There is no reason to ever have officers cover a shift by themselves,” he added. “We should always have two officers on a shift.”

The department currently operates with nine full-time commissioned police officers, which includes the chief, a lieutenant, a sergeant, a detective and five patrol officers.

Another part-time officer works for the village but has a full-time job elsewhere and there is a part-time administrative assistant.

In 2012, a full-time officer was laid off along with all part-time officers. That full-time position was reinstated in 2016 but department staffing hasn’t increased since 2005 McKee said.

“Our size has doubled, our population has doubled since the year 2000 but in fourteen years, we haven’t grown our police force,” McKee said.

“I don’t think anyone would think this isn’t a good idea. The question would just be funding,” said council president, Kerri Ferguson. “We could get an officer in but it’s a matter of paying for it.”

Council discussed a couple of possibilities including a police levy. The question would be, if the village goes that route, whether to get it on the November ballot or for the March ballot next year.

With the continuing growth of the Darby Fields development as well as other residential developments on the table, the village has the potential to gain more money from those incoming homes if the decision was to go with 2020.

Chief McKee said that he’s not completely opposed to the idea but with the hiring process, it would push getting an actual officer on the street until well into the fall.

“If we go this year, we I could have someone training and on the street by October,” he said.

If council does go with the levy, it would be a replacement of the existing 5-mill levy with no change to the amount.

No formal decisions were made but the village fiscal officer, Renee Sonnett, said she would contact the county auditor to get certified numbers on what the levy would potentially bring in.

“Once we have that information, we’ll have a better picture of what we’re working with and know how to move forward,” she said.

Council will likely have a decision on whether to add the levy or not at their next meeting on July 22.



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