Belpre to consider police request

BELPRE – The City of Belpre is going to look into the feasibility of hiring another police officer for the city’s police department to provide better shift coverage.

Council members meeting jointly as the City Finance Committee and the Police and Fire Committee Monday discussed the need for the officer with members of the Belpre Police Department.

Officers work a 12-hour shift, days or evenings, and officers want someone who can work a 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift for better coverage during times when more illegal activity was possible, said Councilman William Gilbert, who is the chair of the Police and Fire Committee.

“Some of that can be covered,” he said.

If someone is off for any reason, sickness or injury, part of the shift would benefit from having the extra person in place, Gilbert said.

“It would fill in for part of the day and part of the night,” he said.

There is still a lot to be done before council can approve the measure and before the department could look at possible qualified candidates.

“The committee wants to know that the finances are in place so we don’t hire someone this year and have to fire them next year,” Gilbert said. “We want it to be something that can be filled out for a period of time, whether we have to make adjustments in some other area to make sure the money is available.”

Officials said it would cost around $65,000 to add a new officer, including salary, training, equipment and other expenses.

Although council members agreed that another officer would benefit the city, some wondered if money would have to be taken from other programs to accommodate it over the long term.

Councilwoman Susan Abdella asked for projections to be done for the next three years to see if the finances would be available to accommodate a new officer.

The Belpre Police Department has nine officers. One was just hired and is being trained and is not in the rotation yet, Gilbert said. The officer being discussed could be the tenth officer for the department.

Council members mentioned the growing drug problem in the area as well as increases in the crime rate and how that has deterred businesses from locating there.

“Businesses will stop coming in,” Councilwoman Donna Miller said. “We have got to do something to protect the city.”

Councilman Dewey Robinson agreed.

“The town is polluted with this stuff (drugs),” he said. “We need more officers.”

Council agreed to have numbers looked at and to meet on this again.