by Ivan Foley
The police departments in Platte County’s largest cities are all well-funded operations.
That conclusion is obvious from a comparative look at police departments in the area conducted by DJ Gehrt, city administrator for Platte City. The city has been studying the possibility of adding another full time police officer, and a subcommittee studying the issue had asked Gehrt to compile staffing and expense comparisons.
Gehrt’s analysis for Platte City included studying the numbers for police departments in Parkville and Riverside in Platte County and the city of Smithville in nearby Clay County.
The Platte City Police Department has fewer officers, fewer senior officers and a smaller budget than the other three cities, according to Gehrt’s numbers.
For best perspective, it’s important to begin by looking at the population size of each city. Smithville is the largest city in terms of population with 8,425 residents, followed by Parkville at 5,554; Platte City 4,691 and Riverside 2,937. Those population totals are per the 2010 United States Census.
Following are some of the highlights.
TOTAL POLICE BUDGET
Platte City: $1,083,576.
Gehrt says the Platte City, Smithville and Riverside figures above as based on fiscal year 2015 budgets for each. Parkville’s total is based on fiscal year 2014 budget.
Breaking it down per capita, Smithville has the lowest police budget cost per capita at $151 per person. Platte City and Parkville are virtually identical at $229 per person. Riverside has the highest police budget per capita at $1,006 per person.
Riverside’s numbers do not include their fire department which has another 14-16 staff members and budget of $1.6 million, or their public safety operations support unit (essentially dispatch) which has a separate budget of approximately $636,000.
Riverside is home to the Argosy Casino, which may increase police activity and definitely increases city financial resources.
TOTAL POLICE STAFF
Platte City: 11 sworn officers, one civilian employee. The department breaks down its list of 11 officers as six patrol officers, three sergeants, one captain/lieutenant, one chief.
Smithville: 14 sworn officers, zero civilian employees. The department lists eight patrol officers, five sergeants, one chief.
Parkville: 17 sworn officers, one civilian employee. The department lists 11 patrol officers, two sergeants, one detective, one captain/lieutenant, one major, and one chief.
Riverside: 26 sworn officers, one civilian employee. It has 15 patrol officers, five sergeants, three captain/lieutenant, two detectives, one major. The city also has an animal control staff position in the police budget. Riverside’s police chief is also acting as city administrator and is not included staffing or budget count.
PLATTE CITY STILL
STUDYING THE OPTION
The question of whether to add another full time officer was first requested last year, but was not included in the newest budget. It was decided the issue would be further discussed this year.
Monday night’s discussion was a continuation of the subcommittee’s talks from last month.
City Administrator DJ Gehrt and Carl Mitchell, police chief, presented information and asked for feedback from the subcommittee, which is comprised of three aldermen--Ron Porter, Vickie Atkins and Debbie Kirkpatrick.
If the decision is eventually to add another officer, city officials have said it would not happen until the 2016 budget, which begins Nov. 1 of 2015.
There are about 8-10 available reserve officers who fill in when officers are on vacation, undergoing training, using holiday time and utilizing compensated time.
Mitchell said the nine full time officers are divided into two squads of four with one floater position. The two squads work 10-hour shifts.
Gehrt said the goal is to have two road patrol officers on duty 24/7.
“We come close to that. It doesn’t happen very often--but it does happen--when there are not two officers on patrol at the same time,” he said at last month’s meeting.
Mitchell said a new full-time officer would cost the city about $49,000 yearly. That’s based on the starting salary of $18 per hour plus 35 percent for taxes and insurance.
“The added officer would provide for a second floated officer and would further help reduce reserve officer time and overtime,” Mitchell said.
Gehrt said that while it is difficult to predict any savings to the reserve and overtime funds, the savings could be in the area of $12,271 from reserve and overtime.
If those numbers are accurate, the net cost to add another full-time officer would be around $37,000.
“It’s not going to be a one-for-one reduction,” Gehrt admitted.
Mitchell indicated that if another full-time officer is hired he would probably only keep “two or three reserve officers and let the rest go.”
The chief added that “most reserves only want to work when they need money or when it is convenient for them.”
Porter last month said it has been his experience that it is cheaper to pay existing staff overtime than it is to hire another full-time position.
Mitchell responded by saying that “today the officers don’t want overtime. They want time off to be with their families. It’s a different mindset today, a generational thing.”
About a year ago the department switched to 10-hour shifts. Officers for the most part work four days and are off three days per week. Gehrt said he believes that move has been helpful in eliminating turnover of officers.
“We have had no full time staff leave since we went to the 10-hour shifts,” he remarked.
Gehrt last month reminded the subcommittee that the city will be expanding its boundaries across the interstate in the years to come.
“The city will probably double in patrol size over the next 10 years,” he said.
He noted that the city doesn’t really have violent crime, but does have property crimes, which are more investigative in nature.
As reported recently in The Landmark last month, 34 burglaries were reported in Platte City the past year. That’s an increase of 74% from the previous year, and up considerably more than that since 2012, when only nine burglaries were reported.
No action was taken by the subcommittee on the item at Monday night’s meeting.