A police-staffing report delivered two weeks ago to Hilliard City Council raised as many questions as it answered, according to several council members.

They are expected to ask some of those questions at the Nov. 13 meeting of the public-safety and legal-affairs committee that representatives of Zashin & Rich, the law firm contracted to perform the study, are expected to attend.

"I wanted a comprehensive study of the entire (Hilliard Division of Police), not just the patrol (bureau)," Councilman Joe Erb said last week. "So (the report) did not even address many of my questions."

City Council members asked for the study early this year at the request of Erb and other council members, who said they believe the division should increase its authorized strength, the maximum number of employees in a given department, to keep up with the city's population growth and anticipated increases in calls for service.

The city paid $28,410.47 to Zashin & Rich to conduct the study, according to finance director David Delande.

Scott DeHart and Jonathan Downes, both attorneys for Zashin & Rich, delivered the staffing report to the public-safety and legal-affairs committee Oct. 23.

The division has 57 officers, 32 of whom are patrol officers, not including the department's three school-resource officers or the single traffic-bureau officer, motorcycle officer Brandon Long, they reported.

Hilliard had 16,209 calls for service in 2016, according to the study.

The study analyzed the calls for service, breaking down the calls by day of the week and hours of the day; it even illustrated seasonal peaks and valleys in calls for service.

Each call for service was coded to determine the nature of each call and whether police were called or if the event was self-initiated.

The study also recorded the time spent on each call for service and what staffing levels are required to achieve at least a 50-50 split of an officer's time dedicated to calls for service and for self-initiated "community policing."

"The current staffing levels of Hilliard police are sufficient to meet to the demands for calls for service ... and maintain a 50 percent (division)," Downes told council members. "Nothing in our analysis indicates additional officers would be needed as a result of current needs ... Additional officers would only enhance the growth of community-policing initiatives."

Police Chief Bobby Fisher said the "results of the study validated some of our thoughts on agency staffing. We are looking into implementing several staffing adjustments in the coming budget year, which includes adding more officers to Hilliard's streets during first and second shifts.

"Our community will continue to see change and growth in the coming years, and our agency's leaders will be looking at these data points each year to make staff recommendations based upon the demands that we are seeing."

Council's responses

Erb was not alone in challenging the conclusions of the report.

"I don't agree because there isn't data to show our population growth (this year) or projections," Councilman Les Carrier said.

Carrier said the report lacked clarity in response times and agreed with Erb that it did not include the division's detective or traffic bureaus.

"What are we doing with the four motorcycles (in the traffic bureau)?" Carrier asked.

The division has four Victory motorcycles but only one officer, Long, is attached to the traffic bureau launched earlier this year.

Creation of the bureau was delayed after the death of officer Sean Johnson, 46, in May 2016. Four motorcycle officers were in training when Johnson was killed in an exercise after contact between his motorcycle and another caused him to lose control and crash.

Fisher previously said more officers are expected to join the bureau next year.

Carrier also criticized the length of time needed to complete the report and questioned its delivery only after a new contract had been signed in August between the division and the Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge No. 9.

Regarding community policing, Carrier said, he wants a greater amount than current staffing allows.

"I think it should be more than 50 percent," he said of the amount of time officers spend proactively patrolling for suspicious activity, for example, as opposed to responding to calls.

Erb said he agreed.

"I want 60-40," Erb said. "We need more officers. This report did not answer all my questions but indicated we have a 50-50 dedicated to nondedicated (police-service ratio), and I don't view that as acceptable to our standards."

Council Vice President Kelly McGivern said she was disappointed the study did not include the detective and traffic bureaus and concurred that she would like the division's "proactive" patrols to approach a 60-40 ratio.

"We have a decision to make about how much time we want our officers to be proactive versus reactive and (will) make our staffing decisions based on that," she said.

Council President Nathan Painter concurred.

"Council needs to decide what level of community policing is desired and make adjustments accordingly," he said.

City Council would consider the 2018 operating budget in making that determination, Painter said.

Mayor Don Schonhardt on Oct. 23 indicated that a draft of the budget would be delivered to council members by Nov. 7, allowing them one week to consider the budget in advance of further discussion of police staffing Nov. 13.

The 2017 public-safety budget was $10,067,724, according to Delande. The tentative 2018 public-safety budget is $10,918,277, he said.

"We look forward to discussing the results of the detailed study and its impact more with City Council and the administration in upcoming meetings," Fisher said.

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