A Madison Township trustee and the township's police chief are at odds over staffing, particularly during overnight shifts.
At issue, according to Trustee Gary McDonald, are appropriate uses of resources, safety and keeping campaign promises.
Police Chief Greg Ryan said he is scheduling officers to cover the times when the most calls for help come in. Beyond that, he indicated a big piece of the puzzle is money, because even though voters approved a police levy in May 2011 that was expected to relieve some of the staffing situations, the trustees at the time opted not to allocate all of the funds generated by the levy. He said that has left him with no way to pay overtime.
The two got into a heated argument during the trustees' Nov. 14 meeting.
According to McDonald, Ryan said prior to the May 2011 election, the department had one to two officers on the street per shift and if the levy passed, there would be a minimum of three officers assigned to each shift.
That hasn't happened, McDonald said, even though officers Eric Rose and Darrell Breneman were hired after the levy was approved. He said current scheduling sometimes leaves only one officer on the street, and is the result of favoritism toward Rose and Breneman. He cited an Oct. 10 email Sgt. David Barrick sent to the Franklin County Sheriff's Office to explain these officers' schedule to dispatchers, who handle Madison Township police calls.
In that email, Barrick said the two officers would be dispatched last "to any non-emergency/paper runs when other officers are available. Both officers understand that they are not relieved of the responsibilities to handle calls for service."
Rose, who also handles the department's K9 dog, and Breneman were moved from full-time patrol duties to splitting their time between patrol and assisting the Investigations Unit.
In addition to Breneman and Rose, according to Madison Township police documents, four patrol officers are scheduled for day shift, three for second shift and two overnight. There is a sergeant assigned to each shift. Also assigned to day shift are two detectives, a court liaison officer, the captain and chief.
During the Nov. 14 trustees' meeting, Ryan provided dispatch statistics from Franklin County, per trustee request, in support of the current scheduling.
"The chart has the number of run counts for the past year for Madison Township and the spike is between 4 and 5 p.m.," Ryan said, noting that the department logged 492 runs for that time period between September 2011 and August 2012.
He said the low point for runs occurs "between 4 and 7 a.m., which corresponds to when we have the most officers out and the least officers out."
McDonald asked him to explain why scheduling documents for Rose and Breneman said they work "as-directed" instead of specific hours.
"Every shift is assigned a sergeant and two officers. K9 (Rose) and Breneman will work shifts between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m.," Ryan said. "We had a long discussion about 'as-directed' so the numbers are back on the schedule, but you need to understand there are circumstances that may need to change when they're there."
In comparison to neighboring communities, Groveport maintains an average of four officers on day shift, five on second shift and three overnight. The Canal Winchester substation of the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office has 10 deputies evenly distributed across the three shifts with one "floater."
McDonald said having only two officers on third shift means if one calls off or takes vacation, only one officer is left on the street.
"My main concern is that I have the letter showing these officers aren't expected to handle calls unless it's a particularly bad situation, and I'm finding out from the other officers on the street that (Rose and Breneman) aren't taking calls," McDonald said. "Then the fact that on overnight shifts, there's times that only one officer is working the street from 3 to 7 a.m. -- why aren't people being kept on later or told to come in earlier?
"I find it hard to believe we put officers' safety second to paying overtime."
Ryan said the current department budget does not allow for forced overtime. If an officer calls off during the overnight shift, he said, he isn't able to force other officers to fill in.
"Even if we have three or four officers out there, there are times when an officer is alone because the other officers are tied up, so there's a misconception about that situation," Ryan said. "But we will always have someone as backup, whether it's the sheriff's office or Groveport or another Madison Township officer. That's the only way it works because there are more bad guys out there than police."
McDonald said mutual aid can't always be counted on for backup.
"The other agencies won't always be there to help out and an officer needs to know that there's someone working with them that has their back," he said. "Our taxpayers paid to have more officers on the street and I don't think they're getting their money's worth."
According to Ryan, trustees need to increase his budget to meet McDonald's request. He said the prior trustees made the decision not to spend all of the levy funds, holding back half.
"We did hire more officers and updated our equipment," Ryan said. "You guys are the keepers of the money, so if you want me to change this, you need to let me know."