Caledonia's police staffing level is the lowest in the state, and roughly half of what the Federal Bureau of Investigation recommends.
The department has 29 patrol officers and supervisors, for a ratio of just over 1.1 officers per 1,000 residents, well under the FBI recommendation of two officers per 1,000 residents. Police Chief Toby Schey told village officials Tuesday that he wants a plan in place to change that.
While Schey presented a budget to the Village Board that increased his department's spending by 1 percent on Tuesday, he also handed in several requests that would boost the budget over that 1 percent increase. Schey asked the VIllage to:
- hire three additional police officers for a total of $250,000.
- give four sergeants and a lieutenant a half percent pay raise.
- reorganize the department to promote one sergeant to lieutenant and one lieutenant to captain, and move one support staff from the police budget to police support.
Those requests have not formally been accepted into the department’s budget, but were more points for discussion as the Village Board makes its final decisions in putting the budget together.
“I realize that’s a huge jump,” Schey said about the request for additional police. “But I think we have to have a strategic plan to add patrol officers. I would like to see three officers in next years budget. We’re currently at 1.1 officers per 1,000 we have in population and you will not see a lower staffed department in the state based on our population with the area we cover and the types of calls we handle.
“We’re between Milwaukee and Racine. It goes without saying that you all live here and you know what’s out there – but we keep it going. Like I said, it’s very hard to maintain those four officers per shift.”
Schey said the cost of overtime has exploded since the department went from 34 in 2010 to 29 total sworn officers in 2011. This year the budget for overtime was $90,000, but by August the department had racked up $97,018 in overtime. In 2011, the department included 29 sworn police officers and police overtime topped $103,895. However, when the department was at 34 patrol officers, overtime totaled $57,000.
Additionally, in 2010 the minimum staffing level was four patrol officers on the day shift, five patrol officers second shift and five patrol officers third shift. In 2011, Schey had to reduce the minimum staffing to four patrol officers on days, second, and third shift. These numbers include as sergeant.
One major issue is car crashes, which increased from 373 in 2010 to 456 in 2011, an increase of 18 percent. Additionally, the department has had 305 car crashes from January to August.
With 23 patrol officers and supervisors, minimal staffing levels are difficult to maintain since they run a shift with three patrol officers and a patrol supervisor covering a Village of 48 square miles.
“We need to be at 24 officers to sustain that level of staffing and we have about 23 officers working patrol, that’s why we are running into overtime,” Schey said.
When a car crash happens, it often ties up three to four officers on a shift with no one covering the rest of the Village and 70 percent of the shifts have people on overtime.
Schey understands that some people in the business world might say that they would prefer to pay more for overtime than hire additional officers with benefits, but there’s an issue with that, he said.
“Some of our officers are working with little sleep and they are working different shifts,” he said.
“We’re getting to the point where we’ll have to have three officers per shift,” Schey said. “And my fear is that we’ll be burning these people out, and if that happens people make mistakes… We’ve got people driving vehicles and using firearms, and they are making important decisions that affect the lives of the community.”
Schey also requested raises for the sergeants and lieutenants. He told the board his concern was with salary compression for the command staff and supervisors since they would be loosing longevity pay and education reimbursements.
“That’s a $1,500 hit already, plus the pension contributions and some of the officers will pass the command staff in salary.”
Despite the requests Schey made, he said he realizes that the Board has to make the best the decisions with taxpayer dollars.
Ron Coutts, the village president, said he realized the need for more officers.
“Obviously this is a wish list with three officers,” he said. “But if you even added one or two that might make a big difference on your overtime budget.”
The Board has not formally adopted the 2013 Village budget, which is still in draft form. They’ll be meeting several more times next week to finalize the budget.
Municipality Number of sworn officers Population Ratio Coverage area in miles Caledonia 29 24,705 1.1 48.7 Mount Pleasant 43
27,000 1.6 36.5 South Milwaukee 32 20,000 1.5 4.8 Oak Creek 58 34,000 1.7 28 Burlington 20 10,050 2.0 6 Racine 203 80,000 2.5 18.7
* Salary surveys