Chief must cope with smaller force
By Jane Beathard
London Police Chief Dave Wiseman handed layoff slips to four full-time patrol officers last week, after city council approved a $224,000 cut in his department’s 2013 budget. Layoff slips also went via mail to eight part-time officers.
Saturday, Dec. 15, is the last designated work day for all 12.
“It puts them off the books by the end of the calendar year which is also the end of London’s fiscal year,” Wiseman said.
It could have been worse.
Initially, council planned to reduce the police department budget by 15 percent or $289,000 from its 2012 allocation. But a last-minute amendment introduced by council member Pat Closser moved $65,000 to the police budget from the recreation and zoning departments.
In effect, the adjustment saved one patrolman’s job by eliminating the city zoning inspector’s position and reducing the recreation director’s job to part time.Vince Benedetti is the London zoning inspector. Ryan Ladd is the recreation director.
Although he’s grateful for the extra funds, Wiseman is uncomfortable with a situation that pitted city departments against each other.
He’s also frustrated that cuts were necessary when his department generally spends less than is allocated.
“As a department, we are $180,000 under budget (for 2012), but we are still being cut,” Wiseman said.
Since 93 percent of the police department’s expenditures go to personnel costs, Wiseman said he had no other choice but layoffs. He hammered that message home to council for weeks prior to the Nov. 15 vote.
“The only way to cut the (police) budget was to cut personnel,” he said.
In accordance with Ohio law and the patrolmen’s union contract, all part-timers were laid off before any full-timers received pink slips. The four tapped were full-time officers with least seniority in London.
Dispatchers and sergeants were unaffected because those positions fall under different union contracts. Wiseman intends to re-hire a patrol officer on the layoff list to fill a full-time dispatcher’s position that’s been open for a year.
“It will not count toward his police service, but he will have a job,” Wiseman said.
Exactly what a shrinking police department will mean to public safety remains to be seen.
“There are a lot of uncertainties about how this will work,” Wiseman said.
He’s currently juggling schedules and looking at overtime costs that are bound to rise.
Fewer officers on the street mean overtime will increase to cover sick and training time for those still employed.
“We’ll be a strictly reactive department,” Wiseman said.
That means no participation in community crime prevention activities. Sponsors of the annual Strawberry Festival and Jazz & Ribs Fest will be forced to pay for security. No officers will be available to direct traffic during street and sewer repairs in the city.
“We’re not sure what the fallout will be,” Wiseman said.