Police ask Council for programs

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 5, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Even the police can have their own wish list.

During the Suffolk City Council’s work session Wednesday, officials from the Suffolk Police Department presented such a list of programs and equipment, which will enable the department to aggressively meet its &uot;professional challenges,&uot; said Lt. Stephanie Birch, a department spokesman.


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Perhaps the most important issue targeted is officer retention, said City Manager R. Steven Herbert.

&uot;One that gets the gold star is the retention issue,&uot; Herbert said. &uot;The manpower deficiencies have got to have an impact.&uot;

Currently, 12 percent – or 19 of the police department’s 153 budgeted positions are vacant, Birch said. In comparison, Hampton has the region’s second highest vacancy rate at 5.7 percent.

Proposed retention initiatives include hiring a full-time police recruiter and adding pay incentives through midnight shift differentials, having a college degree, and a more competitive pay scale, she said.

Other proposed recommendations include:

?Development of a traffic unit, including motorcycle officers, fatality investigators and motor carrier inspectors. The unit would respond to the growing number of serious accidents, many of which cause significant traffic delays on the city’s major arteries.

The unit could be self-supporting if the city uses funding that comes into the city from traffic violations, Birch said. Last year, the city brought in approximately $323,000 and $26,000 from moving traffic and parking regulations respectively.

?Development of a K-9 unit, which would enhance the department’s enforcement against narcotics-related offenses. The unit, which could be created with existing personnel, would be an asset in detecting firearms, conducting unscheduled school checks, and improving officer safety, she said.

?Continuation of the community improvement unit, which was began as pilot program in June. The program targets neighborhood complaints, including drug and alcohol sales; theft of electrical and water devices; and abandoned vehicles.

?Development of a police cadet program. The non-sworn officers would be hired to handle low-priority, low-risk calls, including funeral escorts, motorist assistance, non-reportable accidents, and minor criminal incidents.

The benefits will allow sworn officers to spend more time on serious calls and give the department a &uot;farm team&uot; from which to attract new hires, Birch said.

?Re-institute the police department’s boat patrol and add members to the department’s bike patrol and dive team.

?New and improved equipment and facilities, including more in-car cameras and computers, mini-computers for investigators, adding software to track and audit internal affairs investigations; a mobile command center; hardware and software for investigating cyber crimes; and renovating headquarters.

In coming months, city staff will be searching for grants and other funding sources to cover many of the initiatives and bring them back before the City Council, Herbert said.