After operating with 70 percent of a full complement of officers for the past two years, the Johnstown Police Department took one step closer to a full force when Village Council approved an ordinance naming Jarad Harper the village's newest officer.
When an officer resigned in March, the police force was left with only seven officers, including Chief Don Corbin.
The number had already been cut because an officer was on injury leave and another slot was eliminated byVillage Council in 2012.
"It continues to make things hard," Corbin said. "With our schedule, there are times there's only one officer available, there are times when I'm the only officer when I'm here.
"For instance, if the officer on duty during the day has to go to court or transport someone to jail, I'm the only officer here."
The police department has a long process to follow before hiring an officer. During the various tests and qualifications, Corbin said Harper consistently came out at the top of the group.
"He was No. 1 on the written test, the physical test and also No. 1 on the oral board, which consists of three officers presenting moral and legal scenarios to the candidate to see how they answer them," Corbin said.
He said Harper is extremely well-qualified, and that his inclusion in the force will be welcome manpower.
"It's going to make a difference, it's going to help," Corbin said.
"All of our officers, when they catch reports, do their own detective or investigative work. So if they catch a burglary or a crime, sometimes they're off of the street and here doing paperwork and catching up on interviews and so forth."
Hopefully, Corbin said, Harper's hiring signals a step toward a more full force.
Corbin hopes to either have the injured officer back soon or have another open position, and still would love to have his tenth officer spot back.
"I'm always hoping they'll take me back to 10," he said. "A police chief's wish is to have as many officers as he can because he can always use them somewhere."
The difference between 10 and seven officers has been noticeable, and Corbin said he's concerned that having fewer officers on the streets will hurt their ability to prevent crime.
"Patrol time is what defers crime, so if we're out there and we're visible, I think it will prove through the years and ages that when officers are visible and out there, less crime occurs," he said.
After tabling three other issues at its regular meeting June 17, the council also scheduled a special meeting for 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 24, and canceled its July 1 meeting because of the Fourth of July holiday week.