It’s down to crunch time.

It’s down to crunch time.

Just one month remains until the Independence citizen-led public safety services task force must make its final report – including recommendations and financial evidence to support them – to the city manager’s office. Several task force members say they are leaning toward the Police Department having more immediate needs than the Fire Department and suggested that the two departments’ needs are separated in their final recommendation.  

“I think, if I walked out in the streets and did a quick survey with the average person in Independence, there is a baseline of we need some more cops on the street,” task force member Jason White said. “I don’t know that the concept of ‘We’re getting to the edge with our fire operations’ has been vetted in the community yet. I’ve very much accepted that (the Fire Department) is short on management ... but I think we’ve got to vet the issue a little broader into our community. I’m a little hesitant to committing to part of this planned expenditure to helping (Fire Chief Sandra Schiess).”

During last week’s Fire Department presentation, Schiess said her department is “at a curve” in its ability to provide services to citizens and that “eventually, we’re going to reach a finite number, and we’re not sure what we’re going to do at that time.”

Task force member Tim Watkins said the Police Department, especially its Patrol Division, “is essentially in crisis.”

“We need to get them past that and back to where they can breathe, but we don’t need our Fire Department to fall into that situation that the Police Department is in,” Watkins said. “The hard part, really, is to balance in a way as not to kill one and save the other. When it comes to the Police Department, we’re seriously lacking in services – it’s the quantity of personnel. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we need more police officers.”    

Maj. Ken Jarnagin, the Police Department’s investigations division commander, presented the following wish list for 10 additional personnel:

 Two crime scene and lab employees, including one chemist and one fingerprint examiner;

 

 Two Special Victims Unit detectives, including one sex crimes detective and one cyber crimes detective;

 

 One financial crimes detective;

 

 Three overnight detectives;

 

 Two detectives for Crime Overview Response Evaluation intelligence-led policing and proactive assignments.


“I feel like that’s the best way to be more effective and more efficient with what we’re doing,” said Jarnagin, adding that the division’s approximately 1,700 cases assigned for investigation each year would increase with more manpower. About 17,000 crimes are reported annually to the Independence Police Department, with supervisors assigning about 10 percent for follow-up investigation based on solvability criteria. “I think that 10 would go a long way in efficiency for this division.”

By resolution, the task force is to make its final report to city staff by Aug. 2. In a recent interview, City Manager Robert Heacock said he plans to not attend any of the task force meetings in hopes to remain as objective as possible before the committee makes its final report. However, task force members requested Tuesday that the city’s management analyst, Tracey Elmore, attend a future task force meeting to offer feedback on her reports and suggestions for departmental savings. (Elmore works for the City Council office and conducts reports on a variety of topics within the city, making recommendations to department directors.)

In total, the Police Department has suggested the addition of about 43 personnel. Task force member Gary Hisch requested that Police Chief Tom Dailey prioritize the list of desired positions, while Dailey said “the No. 1 priority is lowering crime” and that such a priority list comes with expectations.

“The problem is that very few people are actually victims of crimes. We’re constantly doing this juggling act,” said Dailey, adding that the police department’s biggest community demand is addressing disorder in neighborhoods. “If we have to cut back, we have to cut back in all areas.

“It’s not that the city hasn’t added officers – it has,” Dailey said of the trends since 1980. “It just hasn’t been able to keep up with the increase in crime.”

 

Independence Police Department personnel trends



                                  1980    1990    2000    2010   

City-funded officers    155      159      163     177

Other funded officers*    0        0          23      28

City-funded civilian        48       58.25    89    97.9    

*Outside funding sources include grants, as well as offsetting revenue sources, including D.A.R.E., school resource officers and Jackson County Drug Task Force