Of four questions posed Tuesday by the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Public Safety,  only one was discussed at length, that of police visibility and how residents rate its adequacy.

Members for the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Public Safety turned from private inquiry to public inquiry Tuesday, asking the public how the city’s police department can improve and make more efficient its overall performance.

Of the four questions posed by committee members Gregory Washington, Emil Spears and Judge Vernon Scoville, only one was discussed at length, that of police visibility and how residents rate its adequacy.

Washington, a former police officer in Blue Springs, said the issue was a tricky one because police are often patroling through neighborhoods, but that residents may not be home, or they may be busy or, as at night, sleeping.

“It’s hard to gauge,” Washington said, searching the audience for comments, which at first appeared as if no one would speak.

Council Member Ron Fowler, in attendance with council members Sheila Solon, Lyle Shaver and Kent Edmondson, was the first to speak. 

Fowler said his constituentcy in District 3 desire increased visibility, prompt service and effective follow-up. 

Solon said people call her mostly with concerns about burglaries and vandalism. She said more police are needed.

“(The ones that work now) work hard and are strained,” she said. “We need more.”

Information provided to the committee shows that Blue Springs Police Department responded to general calls in eight minutes – four minutes for emergency calls. In 2007, the department logged about 49,000 calls, and Washington called that figure significant for a city the size of Blue Springs.

The city has 87 sworn officers and about 30 full-time civilian officers, responsible for 22 miles. During the afternoon, about 10 patrolmen work the city, or one for every 5,000 people. 

Ron Rose, a retired steel worker who lives in Candletree Apartments, said the city needs more officers. Rose said there is a drug problem in the city that will get steadily worse.

“I don’t know if people want to face this or not,” he said, “but it’s the drugs that cause the vandalism, the stealing, the burglaries, all those kinds of incidents.”

When asked by the committee what needed done to improve the city’s response to such issues, Rose was plain.

“More officers and a bigger budget,” he said.

The department does expect to add four new officers this year, one of which is now on the road. But police officers in attendance on Tuesday agreed that other issues beyond additional manpower and training need addressed: equipment for one.

Until recently, many officers used their own GPS systems in their cars, but that was rectified after City Council appropriated money to buy an adequate number. 

But there is still need for more Tasers, Capt. Tony Modrell and other officers said Tuesday. Tasers can can be used as alternative defense; there’s a need also to purchase more up-to-date firearms quicker rather than simply phasing in new pistols, as well as mobile data terminals, of which the department has none.

And there are facility concerns, too.

“The facility here is crammed,” he said.

Regarding training, Modrell said the department is one of the best trained in the area. When Judge Scoville asked if the department was prepared for the influx of minority groups, Modrell said the majority of officers are trained in cultural diversity. 

Chief Wayne McCoy said that in the last seven years, there have been only two complaints filed about wrongful treatment in regards to race, both of which were later dismissed.

Maureen Johnson, a resident of Woods Chapel Estates, led a group of concerned residents in August 2007 to help curb crime in her neighborhood. She said the situation has improved in the area.

“I think we are a testament to the fact that a lot of responsibility lies with residents,” she said.

She said that people need to come together and work within their neighborhood by sending out emails to each other about incidents, leaving lights on, removing all items from vehicles. Do common sense things.

The committee expects to have a survey circulated throughout the police department returned soon, at which time another public meeting could be held. 

The committee expects to make a formal presentation and recommendations in April.