Police study: Hire more officers

Tim Freesmeyer, the principle researcher and owner of Etico Solutions, explains on Thursday the findings of a nearly two-year staffing examination of the Clinton Police Department during a city council work session in Clinton. 

Amy Kent/Clinton Herald

CLINTON — "I don't think it's in the best interest to the city to wait to bring in new staff. You need to get people in the pipeline as soon as possible."

Those were the closing statements of Tim Freesmeyer on Thursday when he unveiled the findings of a nearly two-year long examination into the Clinton Police Department. Freesmeyer, the principle researcher for Etico Solutions, an independent consulting firm out of Macomb, Illinois, pointed out two main areas of concern for the city of Clinton and its police productivity — an understaffed police force and insufficient technology resources for it to use.

To city councilman Tom Determann, those words translated to dollar signs.

"How do you justify to the public, who can Google comparable cities that have similar (police) staffing to us, that we need 24 more officers," Determann said. "We're talking potentially $3 million."

Based on Freesmeyer's findings, which came in the form of a 58-page report that investigated nearly every aspect of police operations, the city of Clinton has a much higher rate of Part I crimes — aggravated assault, burglary, auto theft, rape, homicide, robbery and arson — than 30 cities around the country he used as comparison.

He attributed that rate to a commonly used belief known as the "Broken Window Theory."

According to Freesmeyer, the Broken Window Theory simply states that if small problems in the community, like heightened drug use, are ignored they quickly become much larger problems for the police department to deal with.

"There are far more Part I crimes happening in this community than in these other 30 cities," Freesmeyer said. "It's my guess that staffing has gone down consistently for years and there is not a sufficient number of detectives to tackle the little issues. If you ignore the little things for long enough, they become big things."

With 44 people on the Clinton Police Deparment payroll, Freesmeyer recommends the city look at increasing that number by 24, with 20 to serve as patrolmen and four additional detectives. Not only does he believe the city would benefit from additional law enforcement officers, he also "strongly" recommended the employment of a full-time records clerk, a full-time evidence room operator and a field evidence technician.

Because he believes the office personnel of the police department are overwhelmed by the workload they currently handle, the lack of those positions, especially the records clerk, could leave the city open to liability.

He added that if the department's Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) software was updated, that would certainly help alleviate some of the struggles it faces.

That raised the question from councilman John Rowland of which problem area the city should tend to first.

"As I've listened to you so far the first thing that comes to my mind as an observation is which comes first, the chicken or the egg?" Rowland said. "My question would be why would you hire officers if you're putting them into a record keeping system and a collection data system that's deficient or malfunctioning?"

Freesmeyer answered that question by simply saying "you need to run both simultaneously."

"Even if you had the money right now to go out and add eight to 12 officers, there are not eight people on that list to hire," Freesmeyer said. "Bringing officers on is not an overnight thing. As you get those people lined up, you can do these other things (technology upgrades) at the same time."

While the Clinton City Council is aware of the staffing shortage for the police department, and has for some time now, Thursday's meeting and Freesmeyer's findings acted as an eye-opening experience for many of them.

Even Interim Police Chief Tom Bohle admitted that he wasn't aware of how dismal the department's technology shortfalls and other problem areas were until Freesmeyer began his investigation.

The problem to Mayor Mark Vulich now is that because the study took longer than anticipated, because of the inefficiencies of the CAD, the city has already passed the budget for Fiscal Year 2016 without the knowledge of the shortcomings the police department has faced.

"Part of it goes back to that I didn't know that we have as big of a need as what we did," Vulich said. "I think when we did our budget this year we would have been a little more proactive dealing with that, had we known that it was such a big issue."

At this point, the police department will rely on small adjustments Freesmeyer has suggested to increase efficiency of its operations until a time that the details of the study can be implemented and, more importantly, funded.

Clinton Herald Staff Writer Amy Kent can be contacted at amykent@clintonherald.com.

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