2012-02-11 / Editorials & Letters

‘Watchdog’ goes back to Kirkersville

Editor:

I’ve been getting comments and complaints from people who are less than happy with public officials. Most of the commentary focuses on two governmental sectors: the Village of Kirkersville; and the Licking County Animal Shelter (aka dog pound). Here’s what I have found so far:

According to Kirkersville’s public records, Harrison Township Trustee Larry Kretzman attended the October 5, 2011, council meeting in Kirkersville and stated that “Harrison Township has been kicking around the idea of contracting with the Licking County Sheriff’s department for police coverage in the township and he was wondering if Kirkersville would consider doing the same thing with them instead of the Sheriff’s Department. He said if there’s any interest now would be the time to let them know. He said it is in the early stages, they are still gathering information.”

Also in this October meeting, Police Chief James Chapman referred to his written report to council as he stated, “all (our) numbers are way up; reports, cites, arrest, things of that nature.” At the beginning of September, the chief “directed his officers to initiate a traffic enforcement blitz here in the village. We mostly focused on Outville Road and Main Street. The reason for that was for the school and the pumpkin festival that just started up. This produced measurable numbers and will remain in effect until the end of (October).”

Chief Chapman asked council to “reevaluate issuing a public safety fee or it is also known as a Furtherance of Justice Fund. This fund is a monetary fee that is attached to every citation issued, every court cost and every warrant that is collected on and he has seen the fees range anywhere from $1.50 to $5.00 per citation. These funds are to be used for replacement or upgrade of uniform items, police equipment, etc.” The minutes of November 2, 2011 Kirkersville council meeting reflect that Chief Chapman told council they need to “figure out a way to restrain prisoners downstairs. He said they are arresting very aggressive prisoners, they have tried to kick the windows out of the cruisers, they spit at the officers and we do not have a proper place to restrain these prisoners while we are filling out the paperwork. We tether them to chairs, desks, etc.” He also states that the county will not take prisoners unless that paperwork is completed ahead of time.

The November minutes also note that Chief Chapman says “this month concludes the end of the two month traffic blitz that he initiated with his officers concentrating traffic enforcement efforts on route 40 and Outville road. The reason for this was due to the school going back into service and the opening of the Pumpkin Farm which is very popular. This month (Oct.) 116 traffic citations were issued. Those numbers reflect only the citations but each citation had 2 or 3 charges on them.” Chief Chapman also said, “now their focus is going to shift and they will be focusing on patrol for the upcoming holidays. He said the number of tickets will decrease due to this shift.” Chief Chapman also told council that both cruisers were in desperate need of repair and he didn’t expect them to last much longer. He said they were “making rattling sounds and there is black smoke coming out of the exhaust pipe when you come to a dead stop. He is strongly urging council to look long term into replacing one or both of these vehicles.”

In addition, the chief also announced that they had sworn in two new officers (there are currently seven police officers on the department) and requested to purchase two new badges along with money to “revamp” their office space. Council approved $160 for badges and $150 for paint and supplies and another $350 for a catalytic converter in one of the cruisers.

During the finance report in this November meeting, a uniform allowance for the officers was discussed and the clerk mentioned that the budget was very tight. She says she tried to work the allowance into next year’s budget but could not. She did say if the money continues to come in it could be looked at early next year (2012). Chief Chapman mentioned that he brought up a public safety fee last month to help offset some of the department’s cost. “This would just be typically a $5 to $10 fee assessed to each citation, court cost or warrant and that would be expended to badges, cruisers, etc.” However, I noticed the minutes of the last month reflect that Chief Chapman told council this fee was “anywhere from $1.50 to $5.00 per citation.

The Chief’s report in the minutes of December 7, 2011 states that they “issued 126 citations for the month of November. This is up 10 from last month. He said there is no real trend that he can contribute that to except that we have more officers on the road. He said they had 70 cases for the past Mayor’s Court and already have 110 cases for the next Mayor’s Court. He said they are moving the start time up to 5:00 p.m. instead of 6:00 p.m. due to the number of cases.

Chief Chapman asked council to purchase a computer tower and two portable radios and chargers for the Police Department along with a new battery for one of the cruisers. Council approved $1050.00 for these purchases. The chief added that he would like for them to change the “bond schedule to match Licking County’s” noting that the county’s rates are higher and has step increases for speed. He, again, asked council to consider the public safety fee. Brian (presumably the solicitor Brian Zets) indicated that one of the things he “remembered from Ostrander’s ordinance was that Council didn’t have control of the money.” Chief Chapman said “this is a new trend that is catching on, probably the last 5 to 7 years.” Council passed an emergency reappropriations ordinance to increase the police supplies by $1000.00 for 2011.

January 4, 2012, council minutes reflect that one business owner asked that the police not pull people over right in front of her business. She thinks it deters people from entering the business. The Chief stated that they have to pull people over where it is safe. They “want to be in a well lit area.” One council member commented that he does not think a couple of stops are going to ruin business and he thinks the business is “not making it there” and the business owner is “blaming it on the cops.”

I hope Chief Chapman remembers that the freeway is not a ‘well lit area’ at night. In fact, I was behind a semi truck, on the freeway, one night last week. We were actually traveling under the speed limit (about 62mph). The semi driver hit his brakes. I thought he was going to swerve and I also thought he saw a deer. Nope! It was a Kirkersville cruiser sitting in the median... the dark median. For many people, it is a natural reaction to slow down when you see a cop whether or not you are speeding.

The January minutes reflect that 143 citations were issued in the month of December and officers are working close to 60 hours per month instead of their required 16 hours per month.

Chief Chapman states that he found a “restraint bench” made “by prisoners for prisoners in Mississippi. It is an eight foot metal bench secured to the floor. He said this will allow them to restrain both adults and juveniles. He said with adults they can take them to jail but with juveniles, they have to be held at the department until an adult comes to pick them up and that can take two to four hours. The cost is $160.00 plus freight.” Council allowed $425 for the purchase and shipping costs of this bench and maintenance on the cruisers that the chief says won’t cost more than $75 for each cruiser.)

Here’s some mayor’s court income amounts from local municipalities:

Buckeye Lake Hebron K-ville
Sept. $3918 $4384 $4870
Oct. 4793 3565 4974#
Nov. 6280* 4180 10,028#
Dec. 8393* 3430 13,683

* due in part to collection of old tickets according to Buckeye Lake clerk # village’s share

To be continued...

Bonnie Mansfield
Buckeye Lake

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