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FULTON, Ill. — The city of Fulton is looking at staffing needs within the Fulton Police Department.

In 2017, the Fulton City Council increased staffing levels in the police department from eight officers to nine. The ninth officer was added to assist in covering open shifts due to medical issues and overtime costs.

The department currently dedicates six sworn officers to patrol. The department, when operating with all six patrol officers, utilizes a day shift, night shift and power shift. The day shift is scheduled from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The night shift is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. The department, when utilizing all six patrol officers, runs a power shift from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. The officer assigned to the power shift is also the float officer in the event of time off to cover a day of night shift if needed, which leaves the power shift open.

Fulton Police Chief Dave Bartels in his August 2019 activity report states one officer has been out of work since early August due to injuries, meaning the department is down one power shift officer. Bartels said they are currently running the power shift from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The department also saw a lieutenant retire, with his last day on Sept. 3.

“We definitely need a replacement for Lieutenant Pridemore to keep our staffing levels at the six-man patrol,” Bartels said. “Get that. And then ideally what we’d like to do is to eliminate the lieutenant’s position within the department and augment that with a sergeant within the department that would do the same job basically but he’d also be available for calls if needed.”

Bartels said ideally the department needs to get to the point where they have a cover shift and night officer together seven days a week.

“We are getting to the point in the last four years where it’s progressively getting more violent,” Bartels said. “Like I say, I can deal with somebody going out with a gun. We see more syringes on the street in the city of Fulton and they scare the living hell out of me. Everybody’s got syringes at night.”

Fulton Mayor Mike Ottens said Monday the city is not in a good spot with its overtime budget. The city, in four months, is at $20,800 in overtime with the police department budget. The city budgeted $24,000 for the fiscal year. Ottens said that with six officers, the city, with the power shift, has 504 hours to cover in 14 days. The officers’ two-week regular schedule is for 84 hours per officer, equating to 504 hours over a two-week period. Ottens said this does not account for about 1,200 hours that need to be covered for vacation time, sick time and personal days. Ottens said the question for the city is, if an officer has time off, whether they pay overtime to another officer to fill that time or if they do not run a power shift.

Alderman Keith King said the city has been running a power shift for years and it is working fine. He cited the council implementing the school resource officer and putting in a new officer that was required to go to the academy.

“That’s all overtime hours we have to cover,” King said. “And now we’ve had some officers injured, which is going to happen. Every one of us gets hurt once in a while. We’re picking it apart on the overtime budget but yet the reason our overtime budget’s been so high the last two years is because we’ve had unplanned incidents happen. When we planned last year’s overtime budget we didn’t plan on the SRO officer at the time. We didn’t plan on hiring a new officer to take the SRO officer’s place that had to go to the academy...We can’t use the overtime as a reason not to do this.”

King cited a 1999 study, which suggested the department be staffed at 12 officers. King believes 12 officers is a high number but said with one more officer, the officer could cover vacations. King said he believes the city would spend less than what they are currently spending on overtime. Bartels said the officer could be used as a rover-type officer.

Alderman Mike Van Zuiden said that for months the city had little to no information on police activity and arrests.

“I’m not trying to throw anybody under the bus here but as council we’ve been flying blind as to what the activity of the department has been,” Van Zuiden said. “I’m not saying nothing’s been going on. But these graphs, this narrative, this presentation, paints a picture for us of what’s going on that has been absent in front of this council for quite some time. I would encourage the public safety committee to build off of that and come with a recommendation.”

Van Zuiden added he believes the city needs to be concerned about the budget, stating it is fiscally prudent.

“The justification needs to come forward,” Van Zuiden said. “And I think the information that’s been presented here in the last month or two, this presentation tonight, is a huge first step towards that. So that committee needs to build off of that and come with a recommendation.”

Ottens directed the public safety committee to look into police department staffing. He asked them to look at staffing for police departments in Morrison and Savanna. He also requested the committee look at the cost of running a cover shift every night. He also requested the budget committee to look at the costs.