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June 13, 2014

Jeffersonville council to discuss adding 25 police officers

Proposal would hire five each for five years

JEFFERSONVILLE — The city council will discuss a proposal Monday to hire five new police officers each of the next five years to increase a force that is “spread thin,” said Jeffersonville Police Chief Chris Grimm.

His plan would increase the general fund budget by about $2 million and the local option income tax budget by about $170,00 by 2018. The 25 officers’ salaries and benefits would come from the general fund while new equipment for those officers would come out of LOIT, which is the public safety fund.

“We believe it’s necessary ... because we think that the police department is understaffed based on our Census numbers,” said Grimm, who presented his proposal to the finance committee Thursday.

Jeffersonville’s population has grown by 11,000 since 2011 when the city last hired officers to cover its annexation of 7,800 acres. The city of nearly 46,000 is served by a police force of 75.

Grimm said his figures are based on FBI standards of two officers per 1,000 residents. Hiring 25 officers would leave Jeffersonville with about eight more than FBI recommendations.

Many surrounding municipalities have a few more than two officers per 1,000 people, and the national average is 2.3 officers for every thousand residents.

But the cost of the plan has some council members concerned.

Councilman Nathan Samuel, who is the liaison to JPD, said he isn’t sure if or how the city would pay for the additional officers.

“The only way you can fund something like that or add to our budget is raise revenue,” he said. “And one of the ways to raise revenue that we definitely don’t want to do is raise taxes.”

Council President Dennis Julius said that hiring police officers would add to the list of expenses the city already covers.

“We’re trying to be fiscally responsible,” Julius said.

Both council members want funding options discussed before approval of the plan.

“I like the idea of trying to [stagger] in officers and add them rather than trying to lump them in all at the same time,” Samuel said. “The thing I was a little disappointed about was there really was not a recommendation on how to fund it.”

Population numbers aren’t the only reason that Grimm is requesting more police officers on the streets. He said a force with too few officers ends up giving a lot of attention to calls for service and sometimes not enough to patrolling.

“We’ve become a reactionary police department,” Grimm said. “And our goal is to get these added officers to where we could get ... some units that are proactive instead of reactive.”

The police department also needs enough officers to fan out across the city, he said.

Jeffersonville encompasses 34.4 miles, and is the seventh largest city in Indiana based on geographic size, Grimm said.

“So we have a lot of area to cover,” Grimm said.

The proposal isn’t just a reaction to the opening of the Big Four Bridge — areas such as River Ridge Commerce Center and Veterans Parkway need attention too, Grimm said.

“We want to make sure that it just doesn’t become a downtown issue,” he said.

Julius said he wants to look at alternatives to hiring 25 police officers, whether it be remote-control patrol drones or a volunteer police liaison crew for special events.

“Is there any alternatives out there?” Julius said. “Maybe it’s hiring a couple more police officers and doing X, Y and Z.”

Grimm said that while technology is useful to the department, nothing can replace officers.

“You can put a camera on every corner in the city but a camera can’t intervene, a camera can’t take an accident report, a camera can’t get in a house for a domestic report,” he said.

Either way, the issue will require more number-crunching and a lot more discussion.

“Now that we finally have a written proposal, we can go back and try to fill in the pieces of the puzzles that aren’t’ there,” Samuel said.

Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore said he supports the plan to add officers.

“Look at how much the city of Jeffersonville has grown over the past two years,” Moore said. “I think our police department needs to grow with it.”

Moore said that the city can afford the cost of phasing in 25 new officers because of job creation and increased property taxes from population growth.

“There was a whole new source of income coming into Jeff prior to us taking office,” Moore said.

The city council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in Room 101 in City Hall, 500 Quartermaster Court. It’s open to the public.

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