By SHELLY WILKISON
The City Council continued its budget discussions Monday in the second of three workshops this month.
This week, the Council heard from department heads who explained their budget requests for the new fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
Police Chief Maverick Campbell, whose proposed budget was up from the previous week to $977,630, said after meeting with Mayor Connie Fuller and City Administrator Greg Boatright earlier that day, some numbers had shifted.
His original request for two additional patrol officers was reduced to one plus the addition of a full-time clerical person to help in the police department.
Campbell said he had researched the number of missed calls at the police department over the course of three weeks and determined 306 missed calls. In one day alone, 63 calls were unanswered.
“One area we are lacking is having a face at the department,” he said. “I’ve received numerous complaints that there is no one there to take their calls or answer the door. And rightfully so. My police officers shouldn’t be sitting in that office. They should be out doing preventative patrols and traffic, not sitting behind a desk.”
Campbell said the most important thing to him was the safety of his officers, and the night shift would continue having gaps in coverage if only one new officer joins the ranks in the new fiscal year. He had requested two in order to close the gaps.
“With two officers working night shift, no one would ever be working alone at any time and we’d be able to fill gaps,” he said.
Because a second officer position wasn’t an option after talking with the Mayor and Boatright, Campbell redirected funds that were to be used for the purchase of three new vehicles ($135,000) and applied $45,000 of that toward a clerk position ($39,869).
The total now proposed for salaries in the police department is $465,300.
A line item for Community Policing was added using the $5,000 difference between the clerk salary and redirected vehicle allotment. Campbell explained that Community Policing funds would be spent on events like National Night Out.
With nine police officers and one administrative person, $3,000 was added to the $3,000 travel budget for staff training.
Campbell said with the growth of the department, officers will start sharing equipment.
“When you share a vehicle, that vehicle is now operating 24/7, so wear and tear will reflect on the budget later on,” he said. Officers now take home cars so there is a longer vehicle life expectancy.
“I do want the Council to be cognizant and aware that we are running 24-hour operations, we do have gaps and things do happen, and there are officers who are out there alone. In the past two months, my officers have engaged suspects in the middle of an active burglary and done a vehicle pursuit by themselves. That is a risk that we run when we don’t have minimum staffing levels up to where we want them. But I support 100 percent whatever decision the Council makes, just want to be clear there will be windows where we have an officer out there alone,” Campbell said.
In the original proposal, the department budget contained $8,000 for a K9 officer, but Campbell said he removed that because he believed there was insufficient staff.
“I’m not comfortable putting a K9 with a patrol officer because one of those programs suffers,” he said. “I do not want a lap dog program here for our police department.”
A K9 unit must be a stand alone program, used for narcotics detection, he said.
Campbell said the local dog training company, Pacesetter K9, had offered to donate a drug detector dog to the department and the only costs to the City would be estimated start up of $4,000. The department still has a vehicle equipped for a K9.
Council Member Jon Branigan raised the question of creating a position for a school resource officer.
“I believe the school would be willing to work with us on the numbers,” Branigan said. “I think it’s important, and it would be good to have a police presence.”
Campbell said although it isn’t budgeted, a school officer could be assigned nine months to the schools and three to regular patrol.
He said if the positions are created, a salary incentive should be offered to K9 and SRO, that would add $2,080 and $1,560, respectively.
Campbell’s budget almost doubles the allocation for police uniforms to $15,000. He said funds are needed to purchase Class A dress uniforms for all officers. Funds for new ballistic vests are also included in the line item.
“I’m running a spirit of excellence, 24/7 police department,” he said.
The Council also heard requests from other departments and will continue budget talks August 28.