Liberty council discusses hiring police officer to help bolster force

September 09, 2003|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

LIBERTY - The city needs more police officers but has not come up with the revenue to pay the salaries.

After a lengthy discussion on the matter Monday, four of the City Council members voted to hire a full-time officer and use money from the natural gas fund for the salary.

Council members Barry Davis and Larry Bowmer voted against the motion.

"We've had a perfect storm to hit us as far as the police department," said Mayor Steve Sweeney.

"Four of the five officers will be off for one thing or another," he told council members.

Part of the police force is in training, one officer is sick and another is on administrative leave, which leaves Chief Ron Whited as the lone officer after this weekend.

The city has two applicants who are certified to work but has no money to hire them.

Whited said the city needs at least six officers to cover the city.


"If we had six full-time officers, we would have enough to give everyone 40 hours a week with no overtime," Whited said. This also would give extra help when someone is on vacation, he said.

"We're down to one officer per shift," said Whited. "If we had extra officers, we would not have all this trouble we're having."

When one officer was arresting a person for drunken driving recently, several other crimes were committed, he said. "We're not providing service like we should be."

Councilman Bowmer suggested hiring someone on a temporary basis, but Sweeney said they might not work out.

Bowmer also said the officers need to patrol the streets and not spend so much time at the police station and dispatch office.

"I'm for hiring a police officer, but we don't know if all the other officers will come back," said Councilman Earl "Monk" Wilson.

"How are we going to fund a full- or part-time officer?" asked Sweeney. "We don't have money for a sixth officer, and we can't hire someone if we don't have revenues."

There was some discussion on taking money from the natural gas fund, but Sweeney said if more funds are not raised, the money will run out in the future.

"We have to have stable income for the general fund," the mayor said. "We have been running deficient in the general fund for years. We don't have the source of funding to balance the budget."

Sweeney added that the city either needs to severely cut back on spending or raise funds.

"I am not willing to hire a police officer until we have some funds to pay (the salary)," he said.

Councilman Jim Ellison wanted to hire one officer now, use gas funds to pay the salary and look for other revenue later.

Councilman Davis suggested raising the insurance premium tax and stop raiding the gas funds. However, a motion to raise the insurance premium tax from 2 to 10 percent was voted down.

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