MOUNT VERNON — In an Employee and Community Relations Committee meeting on Monday, Police Chief Robert Morgan outlined a proposal to create a patrol commander position in the Mount Vernon Police Department.
The plan increases supervisory personnel from nine to 10 and decreases the number of officers from 20 to 19.
In February, Morgan proposed adding three new officers, one on each shift, and one supervisor to the ranks.
At the time, council approved a temporary staffing increase of one supervisor and two patrol positions. Morgan requested the increase so that he could begin hiring and training officers to fill current and upcoming vacant positions and alleviate overtime.
The temporary increase ended on Sept. 30, and staffing reverted to nine supervisory personnel and 20 officers.
With the repercussions from COVID-19, the three new officers are no longer an option. The need for an additional supervisor remains.
Currently, one administrative supervisor handles the patrol command and administrative duties. Two job descriptions have been written. The Civil Service Commission has approved having two positions.
“We are at a point right now with our new initiatives we've added … that the workload is becoming overwhelming for him,” Morgan told city council members. “We've been farming out excess duties to our patrol division and detective division supervisors to do the things we can't do with one person.”
Additional initiatives include the effort to become part of Ohio Collaborative; new review panels the department has put in place, including accountability, police pursuits, and use of force; and ongoing review of anti-discrimination and other policies.
“A lot of work went into [these initiatives], and it will take a lot of work to maintain them,” Morgan said.
An additional need is to designate a property evidence manager to oversee the evidence room.
“Best practices say the manager should not be part of our detective division,” he said. “Currently our detective division is in charge of the evidence room. Moving it out [from the detective division] also frees up our detectives to do more detective work and less property room work.”
Morgan said the reduction in officers “will not take away from the street.” The patrol division is at full strength, and overtime is low.
The department, at the suggestion of the officers, is considering going to 12-hour shifts for patrol officers.
“That will alleviate a lot of the overtime we've had in past years,” Morgan said.
Safety-service Director Richard Dzik agrees with the 12-hour shifts and said the hope is that it will get overtime under control with officers needing and taking less time off.
“We hope it will create a savings, but we can't guarantee it,” he said.
Law Director Rob Broeren said that he and other members of the administration have talked with other departments who have gone to 12-hour shifts.
“The 12-hour shift is not some sort of pie-in-the-sky belief,” he said. “Our belief in the savings is based on the savings they have had relative to their overtime.”
The patrol commander will manage the shift scheduling. A union contract is being negotiated now to try the 12-hour shifts for a trial period.
A senior patrolman will be promoted to the patrol commander position. Morgan said that the difference in pay will be an additional $7,800 to $8,000 a year.
In August, Morgan broached the idea of adding a community advocate to the force in lieu of additional officers. The advocate would initiate social service referrals on-scene.
Monday, Mayor Matt Starr said that he is pursuing outside funding for the advocate position.
Council gave a second reading to legislation adjusting the personnel positions.