|Chief’s request granted by board |
|Posted: Friday, November 11, 2011 3:05 pm |
Despite opposition as to where the money is coming from, the Dresden Police Department received approval to hire another full-time officer.
Dresden Police Chief Randal Walker (left) with Ashley Gordon and Dresden Mayor Danny Forrester
The police advisory board met prior to the regular November monthly meeting of the City of Dresden Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday night to discuss the hiring of a new officer and how to fund the hiring.
Since officer Corey Tidwell is in Cuba with the Navy until December 2012, officer Jessica Thornton, who was recently hired in a full-time/part-time slot, was moved up to a full-time officer, leaving a slot open for another part-time/full-time position. In addition, Sgt. Michael Gertsch recently vacated his slot.
“The mayor and I talked about where the money would come from,” Dresden Police Chief Randal Walker said. “We’re having trouble having enough officers. We have eight and would like to have two working per shift. One more officer would help maintain this.”
Walker explained that when one officer is sick or on vacation or has to be absent for any reason, the schedule must be rewritten and officers must fill in the holes. Oftentimes, this means an officer might have to work a double shift to compensate for the absence.
Dresden finance director Carla Edwards recommended that money moved out of the hospitalization line item in each department’s budget into the general fund would pay for another full-time position.
Money is already available for the part-time/full-time replacement for Tidwell and Walker is getting everything in order for Gary Eddings to take the position until Tidwell returns.
The advisory board decided unanimously to recommend the proposal to the full board, but when the meeting rolled around, a few aldermen expressed displeasure in how the position would be funded.
“I don’t agree with taking money out when we have other employees and departments to consider,” aldermen Robb Newbill said.
Statistics show that from June 16, 2010 until June 15, 2011, the police department took in 6,227 calls with an average of about 840 calls per officer. With one officer on duty handling calls, approximately 59 percent of the time calls are stacked up and must be answered by priority. Calls involving the safety and welfare of children are first priority.
Total overtime since July 1 has been $3,113.30.
Both aldermen Jake Bynum and Gwin Anderson questioned the call breakdown and who exactly makes the calls.
“We need to look at and make sense of this before we add on and add on. We need to see where we’ve been and where we’re going,” Newbill continued.
Walker stressed the situation was becoming “unmanageable” and, as set by the board in previous years, two officers needed to be guaranteed to work a shift.
“We must support other department heads,” Bynum said. “Will we be doing them a disservice?”
Bynum further expressed concern that the police department was becoming like a “revolving door” with officers coming and going and Gertsch admitting he “could not work under the current administration.”
“Thirty-one percent of the budget is being used for the police department,” Anderson said. “Who are these people who make these calls? We need names and addresses. This is not right to the taxpayers.”
“I don’t agree with where the money is coming from, but we need the officer,” alderman Dick Tidwell said.
On a 4-2 vote, with Bynum and Newbill expressing opposition, the board granted approval to hire another full-time officer with benefits.
In other police department business, Walker thanked the mayor and board for their help during Gertsch’s recent court of appeals hearing.
After the conclusion of the hearing, stemming from an appeal Gertsch had to a reprimand from the department on his not responding to a medical assist call, the district attorney’s office looked into allegations Gertsch made that Dresden police officers had violated criminal laws in the past.
On Oct. 27, criminal investigator Rick Kelly interviewed Gertsch about the allegations and Gertsch admitted he had no knowledge of criminal conduct, but was referring to a violation of departmental policy by another officer and “what I had been told” by others. Gertsch also admitted that “criminal” might have been a poor choice of words.
District Attorney Tommy Thomas ordered the investigation closed and announced, in a letter to the city, there was no credible evidence of the violation of criminal law by the Dresden Police Department.
Walker is now in the process of rewriting the policy and procedure manual for the department and it will include a mandatory response of officers to medical assist calls.
Walker reported a rash of vandalisms since summer and most recently, with the department’s investment in cameras, two vandals were caught spray-painting a pumping station on East Maple Street. The camera was installed at 3:30 p.m. that day and the incident of vandalism occurred at 5 p.m.
Finally, numbers for the Driver Improvement program show that for four sessions, 75 out of 110 ordered people have attended and $5,075 has been collected thus far.