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Reserve police officer discussion gets heated

by Kim Fickett
Landmark reporter

A discussion regarding amendments to the City of Platte City’s personnel policy became heated Tuesday night.
The heat was turned up when aldermen were asked to adopt a resolution in support of revisions to the city’s personnel rules and regulations involving the police department.

The proposed resolution asked for the board’s approval of two separate revisions.

The first was Section 4.130, which involves special allowances and assignment pay for police officers. The revisions stated that in addition to a police officer’s base pay, the following special allowances shall be afforded: each full time officer working at least 80 percent of their regular work schedule on either the first or third watch during a month, shall receive additional shift differential pay of $25 per month.

Each full time officer who voluntarily participates in the physical fitness test conducted by the Platte City Police Department and passes as determined by the chief of police will be awarded eight hours of paid time off. The physical fitness test may be conducted as frequently as prescribed by the chief; however no more than 16 hours of paid time off shall be awarded to an officer in any fiscal year.

“I don’t see why we should pay them to keep physically fit and then pay them to get eight hours off,” said Alderman Ron Porter.

Alderman Melody Doescher agreed with Porter. “I’m very adamant about it. I don’t think it’s the city’s responsibility to pay them for a physical and then pay them eight hours because they took time off to take a physical.”

This policy was approved by a vote of 4-2, with Porter and Doescher opposed.

The other proposed revision was Section 13.020, which involves code of conduct. The revision states, “In the discharge of their duties, employees shall adhere to the following code of conduct: No employee in the service of the City shall request or permit the use of City owned property for any purpose except the conduct of City business and no such employee shall, directly or indirectly, attempt to obtain any service or benefit from City personnel for the personal affairs of such employee.”

However, there is a police officer exception that says police officers may use their police uniform, badge, utility belt and related equipment, as well as their side arm when providing off duty security within the City of Platte City. Off duty work shall be in compliance with Chapter 16 of the personnel policy.

That exception also has both Porter and Doescher questioning the need for reserve police officers in a city of Platte City’s size.

“I don’t know why we even need reserves,” said Porter. “The county doesn’t even have reserve officers.”

Platte City Police Chief Joe McHale said the county employs 128 officers. “If two of their officers don’t show up due to illness, it doesn’t affect them. If two officers don’t show up with us, it affects us greatly,” said McHale.

“If we don’t pay the reserves, they’re not going to work I can tell you that. If the reserves aren’t going to work here you are going to lose about a quarter of your force. The days of having reserves not paid are just about gone.”

McHale also informed the board that his department has seen felony arrests increase considerably, as well as domestic violence arrest calls on the rise by at least 30%.

However, Doescher disagrees. “Reserve officers work for free and they have been for a long time and it’s not 30 years ago like may have been mentioned last night,” Doescher said Wednesday morning.

“I did a lot of research on this (topic) this weekend, and it is still happening. And for us to be buying uniforms and cleaning them for the reserve officers, I just don’t understand it.

“I don’t know how we can ask officers to go through all the requirements and meet our standards and ask them to work for nothing,” said Mayor Dave Brooks.

Porter said, “I don’t believe in furnishing them uniforms and everything to stay for a couple of months.”

Brooks said he didn’t understand how aldermen and the city could ask officers to risk their own safety and not get paid for that risk. He pointed to a specific incident which occurred at a Platte County R-3 Pirates football game two weeks ago, where a fight broke out and by the time the officer made his way to the fight there was nothing he could do because he was the only officer at the game.

Brooks asked Assistant Superintendent Greg Frost, who was present at the meeting, how many people attend a Pirates game on average each week and Frost responded with an attendance of 1,500-2,000 people.

“I never went into combat by myself,” said Alderman George McClintock. “I always had two or three guys go with me.”

Brooks pointed to each of the board members and said if they think they can find credible officers out there who meet the city’s standards and requirements for a reserve officer that will work for free, then he wants them to bring those individuals in.

“If you all condone this, I as a mayor don’t condone it,” Brooks stated.

The board decided to table this revision.

In other action,

•Frost, R-3 assistant superintendent, requested the board of aldermen’s consideration of extending the minimum allowable distance, which according to city ordinance is 200 feet, between an establishment which serves liquor and the schools.

City Administrator Keith Moody said the city has regulations that prohibit the issuance of a liquor license to an establishment that would move within 200 feet of an established church or school.

However, in this case the potential business would fall over the 200 feet regulation and would be permitted because of the city’s code.

“We measured from building to building and it is 233 feet from the building to the school,” said Moody.

According to Frost, R-3 school board members had raised some concerns about the city’s ordinance, when rumors were circulating that a potential bar and grill may be going in near the school.

“We felt due to the proximity of the middle school and the activities that we have in the evening, there may be some unwanted banter from people who maybe have had one too many exiting the business,” said Frost. “We’re trying to error on the side of safety and we’re trying to eliminate all those factors we can.”

McHale stated that even if the city wanted to change its ordinance it wouldn’t be able to.

“State law is pretty explicit about the 200 feet rule. You can’t supersede state law,” he said.

McHale stated that he is willing to work with Frost and the district to gather their input if such a business would want to develop in such close proximity to the schools.

“We just wanted to bring it to your attention to be heard,” stated Frost.

“We don’t want any child subject to anything you don’t want them subject to, but we can’t break state rules,” said Brooks.


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