More full-time officers, a tiered pay system, and a new police station are badly needed, chief Tim Barfield recently told Wellington village council.
He said the department has lost nine part-time officers in the last year, an ongoing trend that boils down to pay and the desire to move into full-time work.
Council will consider tiered pay and hiring one additional full-time officer in both 2018 and 2019, Barfield said. Tiered pay was first brought up earlier this year.
As it stands, the WPD employs seven full-time and nine part-time officers. According to data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a community the size of Wellington should have 11 full-time officers, or 2.2 per 1,000 residents.
Barfield said he’s not asking to move up to 11, but at least one more full-time hire is definitely needed in the near future.
When factoring in pay for part-time officers, Barfield said the village is already essentially paying for 11 full-time ones.
“Even if we had 11 full-time officers, the need would still exist for at least a few part-time ones,” he said. “These numbers are saying that the full-time equivalent is, in essence, already supporting 11 full-time people.”
“If council told me we could have 11 full-time people right now, that’d be great, but I’m just looking for one in each of the next two years to cut out some of the retention issues we’ve had,” he said.
A six-tier pay system was laid out for council in a packet provided by Barfield, referencing the practice in communities with similar median incomes to Wellington such as Vermilion, Bellevue, Huron, and Brunswick Hills. However, Wellington’s 8.1 percent poverty rate is markedly higher than those cities.
Under the system, part-time dispatchers would start at $13.64 with a ceiling of $16.20 after 54 months. A full-time dispatcher would start at $16.20 with the chance to move to $18.28. Part-time officers would move between $15.45 and $21.15 and full-time would be $21.15 to $24.57.
The total yearly cost of hiring a new full-time officer at $21.15 would be $82,863.87, but a projected reduction in part-time hours would make up for $33,737.60 of that.
“We end up acting as a training ground for the rest of the county and that has to change,” Barfield said. “We haven’t lost any full-time officers in the past year, but too many part-time. These are good people. You can talk to any one of them and they’ll tell you the issue isn’t the department. They just need a full-time job. It’s a lot to ask of someone to work a 20-hour day between here and another job. That’s not fair to them, the department, or the residents.”
An eventual move for the WPD from its current home to the former Elyria Savings and Trust building on West Herrick Avenue is still likely but will cost just under $1.5 million.
The police station adjacent to village hall measures only 1,067 square feet and has forced the department to use supervisors’ offices for storage and keep urine samples near eating areas.
“I’ve shown that plans existed in 1970 to move the department,” Barfield said. “But a police station doesn’t do me any good if I can’t staff it. We have to stabilize this work force, but we’re still going to move forward with plans to obtain the property and figure out how we’re going to pay for it. The EST building is the best option. It’s affordable and has the space we need.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.