Leachville Council talks police department hours
The Leachville City Council at its regular meeting Tuesday, May 27, discussed in length with members of the Leachville Police Department about their hours and how to get more coverage for the city while staying incompliance with state regulations.
Alderman David Wallace sparked a more than hour long conversation when he asked if the city had 24 hour police coverage. Council members said some citizens complain that police officers can't be seen patrolling the school area as often as citizens would like or are not on the street at 2 a.m. or other early morning hours.
City Clerk Ruth Keith explained the state requirement is that officers work 43 hours a week before paid overtime if the officer is paid by the hour. The Leachville officers are paid a salary and often times work longer hours. Keith fears that if the part time officer is worked more than he is supposed to or if any of the officers are overworked the city would be out of compliance with state law.
Police chief Keith Evans and other members of the department explained the four full time officers work a two on three off schedule with two officers working at a time. So one officer is on duty during the day, one at night and others on call if need to be. This allows everyone to get their hours and have time off.
Officers are often called out on their time off to help or cover during certain situations. All officers are present during court when held at Leachville city hall, which means if the officer is off duty but there for court he is working without pay. Things like domestic disturbances have to be worked by more than one officer, investigation of felonies take time, paper work, transporting prisoners to and from Luxora when an arrest is made or court is held takes about three hours and other job responsibilities that require officers to work either off schedule or take them away from patrolling.
To make up for time worked without compensation the officers will sometimes go home for lunch, dinner or break during their shift or stop to eat at a local business. Chief Evans said the officers have their radios on and regardless of whether they are eating or off duty they will respond to calls when needed.
"There is so much our officers and employees do that people don't see," Mayor Shelia Spurlock said. "You are going to get complaints. Not everyone is going to like every police officer or every city employee. I get complaints about the council, the employees and myself. Our officers do a great job and they were recently complimented for their swift response to the storms a few weeks ago. There is not a lot of turnover in our department and they work really well together. Although they may not be out on the streets 24 hours a day they are always there when we need them."
Wallace said he brought up the question for the council to discuss and council members said there have been complaints and every complaint deserves to be addressed. After a 10 minute recess the council came back into session where they looked at the current schedule for officers.
"If we assume we have coverage - police are patrolling the streets - every hour of the week for a four week month that is 672 hours a month that we have available to work the officers without overtime or the use of the part time officer. According to this we have coverage 640 hours a month with the part-time officer filling in the rest of the hours. It looks to me like we have about 100 hours a month that we don't have (coverage) police patrolling the streets and that has to come from somewhere. We can't cut trips to Luxora, we can't stop investigating felonies, domestic disputes are going to happen, and paper work is important because everything has to be documented. So do we need a fifth full time officer."
After discussing the possibility of adding another full time officer, the council decided one was not needed at this time. City Clerk Keith explained the city of Bono got into trouble when a disgruntled officer was awarded overtime pay and the city was fined $55,000 for not being in compliance with regulations. She said working the part time officer more than 20 hours a week would put Leachville out of compliance. Finally Wallace made a motion to require the chief to build a schedule that keeps the city in compliance. That motion past unanimously. Council members and the mayor praised the police officers for their work and the coverage they do provide.
In other business the council received reports from each department of job responsibilities and hours worked to review. The council will discuss what portions of those reports would be added to the city's employee handbook to bring it up to date. The council also talked with water department staff member Robert Ballard about placing meters on houses and businesses currently being charged a flat rate. Ballard said businesses and houses where the meters are broken are charged a $35 flat rate. He said the school and housing authority are charged a little more but also have a flat rate. It would cost about $50 per meter for the 20 houses and businesses that need new ones but would cost more for the school in Leachville and the housing authority. The council asked Ballard to bring back a definite number of meters that need to be replaced and what those would cost. Ballard also reported that the new manhole lids helped tremendously during the last heavy rain preventing flooding in certain areas of town.
Chief Evans presented the council with the department's list of duties and asked the council to adopt a module policy and procedures manual put together by the lawyers of the Chief's Association, which the council did unanimously. Evans also said he had gotten a map of the newly annexed area and drove the six miles of highway and gravel that will now be in the city. There will be new temporary city limit signs put up on Highway 18 hopefully before the Leachville officers start patrolling the area July 4.
The council passed a motion unanimously to sell the city's 1985 Ford Ranger truck and another older truck using a bidding process. Those interested can submit a bid to city hall. The bids will be opened June 16 at the next council meeting. The council also approved 4-1 with Johnny Hawkins voting no to use the full parade and watermelon festival budget of $2,250 to hire bands for the festivals. The city will make adjustments for the Christmas parade later.
The council also passed resolution 2014-3 allowing permanent access to the alleyway for Williams Building. The alleyway will be a single lane non paved access street. In Mayor's comments Spurlock said with the passing of the annexation wards would need to be extended for better voter representation. That matter will be discussed at a later meeting.
The annual July 4 in the Leachville Park will happen again this year at 9:11 p.m. on the fourth.