By Melanie Yingst
February 19, 2014
TROY — On Wednesday, president of council Martha Baker said she believed hearing the analysis of information directly from Chief Charles Phelps was important for council.
Council verbally approved to move forward with the police department’s request to add three additional police officers in 2014, with a fourth additional officer request in 2014 to bring the total number of officers to 43 by 2015.
“I think it’s important when we can speak directly to the chiefs or from any city head of a department,” Baker said. “I did appreciate (city of Troy Director of Public Service and Safety) Titterington taking the time to set it up. I think it cleared the air on things.”
Baker said she’d also like council to be able to review a copy of both the fire and police department’s annual report in the future.
Baker also said although a detailed analysis may not be needed every year for every department, yet she believed department heads like Chief Charles Phelps and Fire Chief Chris Boehringer should be able to answer questions in regards to their annual budget directly during the council’s budget workshops.
“If we had the answers at the budget time, it wouldn’t be necessary to have this extra meeting,” Baker said. “But I think everything will move forward.”
After the budget Nov. 20, 2013, budget workshop, in an email dated Nov. 21 to Titterington, city auditor John Stickel, the mayor and members of city council, president of council Baker wrote said she was “very uncomfortable with the unfunded/unfilled positions in the police and fire departments.”
Baker stated further in her email to city officials: “I am not convinced that the chief and the rank and file are on board with that decision and am very concerned about the increasing population … emphasis on drug enforcement area-wide (and seeming lack of it in Troy) and related break-ins … and the burn-out of employees.”
On Tuesday, Baker asked Chief Phelps at the time of the budget workshop (Nov. 20, 2013, was Phelps on board with the recommendation, which left the four officer vacancies that were unfunded for 2014.
“Me, myself and my department have always requested to have had staffing restored,” Phelps said Tuesday.
In regards to the two officer-involved shooting incidents in 2013, Phelps said the “law of averages caught up with us” after going 27 years without a case and then having two in one year — the suicide by homicide of Al Pickett on Aug. 20, 2013, and officer involved shooting death of Franklin Jones III on Monroe Street on Dec. 29, 2013.
“I hope we never have this again, but if should it happen, we’ll have the right number of officers in place,” Phelps said in reference to covering for officers placed on leave or other vacancies.
BY THE NUMBERS
On Tuesday, Phelps presented council with a report comparing Troy’s crime rate, number of officers, call per officer, call per capita, calls per service, officers per capita and its crime rate against regional cities including Bellefountaine, Clayton, Huber Heights, Springfield, Tipp City, Centerville, Englewood, Fairborn, Greenville, Miamisburg, Piqua, Sidney, Urbana, Vandalia, West Carrollton and Xenia.
For example, Troy was 15th in calls per 1,000 citizens, yet Phelps said his department does not count every dispatch call for duties such as funeral escorts, vacation home checks and other community service requests.
For dispatch calls for service, Troy was 10th among the region with 20,826.
For the average number of officers budgeted in 2013, the average was 36 for the group. Troy was fifth largest at 38 officers. The average number of officers per capita is 1.62 — Troy was 11th with 1.51.
The average number of calls per officer in 2013 was 748 calls per officer, Troy was 13th with 534 calls.
Phelps said beginning in 1992, the department had 35 officers, which increased to 43 in 2003, then reduced mainly through attrition.
“In 2008, it began to reduce due to budget financial issues,” Phelps reported. The department has 39 officers budgeted, with 38 officers on staff currently.
The general fund forecast stated the four additional officers, two starting in on March 1, one starting on May 1 and the last on Jan. 1, 2015, will initially cost $168,230 in 2014; $324,582 in 2015; $377,717; $412,720 in 2017; and $426,309 in 2018.
Titterington added to Phelps’ presentation the city’s five-year forecast for the city budget. Titterington noted that forecast numbers past 2016 are hard to gauge.
The General Fund forecast predicts the city of Troy’s income resources to steadily decrease from $50.9 million in 2014; $45.1 million in 2015; $43.2 million in 2016; $40 million in 2017; and $35.1 million in 2018.
City of Troy’s total expenses fluctuate for the next five years at: $31.4 million in 2014; $27.7 million in 2015; $28.7 million in 2016, $29.7 million in 2017; and $30.7 million in 2018.
The total expense for the general fund’s forecast includes the additional police officers and their salaries, flat funding of street paving at $600,000 a year for five years and the $5 million river front development bond for Treasure Island and Hobart Arena.
COUNCIL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS
On Tuesday, council member Lynne Snee asked if the department needed to buy additional police vehicles for the officers.
Phelps said no additional patrol cars will be needed for the officers. Equipment such as bullet proof vests, uniforms and other gear are required for each officer is factored in the initial $168,230 request.
Council member Bobby Phillips asked if there was any way to outsource the transportation for the city police for incarcerations. Phelps said due to the county’s shortage of deputies, city officers transport their own detainees to court and the county jail as well as pick up detainees in other counties who have been served warrants for their arrest.
“We just don’t have the support right now,” Phelps said.
Phelps said he did not know of a service that could be outsourced to save on time and costs.
Council member John Schweser asked how many retirements does the department know of.
Phelps said there are currently no formal requests, but there are a few officers one staff who are eligible that “could go anytime with paperwork.”
Council member Robin Oda said she felt like she was told “everything was fine a couple months ago.”
“And now, all of a sudden, we need to hire four officers?” Oda said.
Titterington responded to Oda’s question by stating council was told it would look at the staffing levels in the first quarter of 2014, prior to the three officers on paid administrative leave for the Dec. 29 incident.
The three officers were released off paid administrative leave and back on duty this week. Titterington said due to the three officers and their paid administrative leave for 8 1/2 weeks for the shooting incident’s investigation, that incident sped up the process to hire the additional officers.
Council member Bill Twiss asked if there was any contingency plan in place for the officers should they fail to meet expectations of the department. Phelps said a new officer first must go through a probationary period. If they fail to perform to the city’s expectations during the period, Phelps said the department goes back to the civil service list and starts over again.
Twiss also asked if the staffing is restored, would officers be more flexible in their schedules in the future.
Phelps said with low staffing levels now, there are more officers who are working on their days off or split shifts to cover for others who need coverage. Phelps said many of the officers were receiving overtime pay due to working 12.5 hours a day instead of 8.5 hours. Phelps said that occurs when the city has special events such as concerts, festivals, school events and other large volume events.
Council member Tom Kendall asked if 43 is a good number or does 44 officers make it much better?
Phelps said the 43 officers on staff is not a “magic number,” but the data according to the city’s needs and call volume is what he believes is right at this time.
Council member Doug Tremblay asked if the additional officers would allow for more proactive policing of the city.
Phelps said with more officers, the department can deal with “hot spots” where crime takes place and use the data to increase patrol “when and where things are happening.”
“It’s a positive thing for the community,” Phelps said.
All members of council were present on Tuesday with the exception of council member Al Clark.
Melanie Yingst can be reached at (937) 440-5254 or follow her on Twitter @Troydailynews