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Short Staffed, Police Chief Asks For More

The Caledonia Police Department is stretched so thin it ranks lowest in the state for staffing level per 1,000 residents, the police chief said, and he wants that to change.

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

Caledonia Retiree September 28, 2012 at 12:26 AM
There's nothing I hate more than to read an article about additional spending (and the resulting property tax increase) but in this case I'm with the police chief. Recently, there was one of those accidents mentioned in the article near to my home and there was an immediate police/rescue response with several officers on-site. Here in Caledonia we enjoy a quick police response to almost any situation unlike other municipalities like Milwaukee where they often don't even respond to a car crash unless someone is injured. Caledonia police also respond quickly to calls from alarm companies (which I learned a few years ago when the alarm company goofed up while I was testing my alarm!). I'm with the chief on this one even though it may cost me money....
YAMATO September 28, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Caledonia is a STOP N STEAL< BURGLARIZE<ROB> place to be. Absolutely, the ratio should be raised. Security of the public is priority in maslow heirarchy. I know so many that CRY about things but do not support the local Police. This Village has best value department and officers but does nothing to stop what will be coming their way. Time to follow what the consultants told you, UNDERMANNED.
Jesse Booker September 28, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Wow............ Military Preference here!! Tell me where to apply!
Justin Klis September 28, 2012 at 02:55 PM
I am also not a fan of increased taxes, but I have to say, I stand by the Chief's request and am willing to pay more for for more/better police coverage. There is nothing more important then public safety, it directly effects quality of live in Caledonia.
Debra Mueller September 28, 2012 at 06:24 PM
I agree we need more police officers. We have good response times, let us keep that while not spreading them so thin in our large comunity :)
Tansandy September 28, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Did anyone ever think about ways to make our existing force more productive????
Caledonia Evan September 28, 2012 at 10:23 PM
We said Tansandy. If the response times are as quick as everyone is saying, it is clear that they DONT need more officers. Whats more, lets have a reporter do a comparison of the police calls for the last few years. My understanding is that the police calls in caledonia are way down. If that is the case, it is another example of why you don't need more officers. Lets see the numbers. Plus the sheriff's department patrols caledonia too, i see them here all the time!
christopher g tisler September 29, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Really We are over staffed I have lived in Milw and have called for break ins which the police where to busy to even respond 3 times police never showed. I agree with even lets see the numbers
Stephanie Langenfeld September 29, 2012 at 02:56 AM
Let me know if you find anything out Jesse, we can be coworkers....lol
Denise Lockwood September 29, 2012 at 03:15 AM
What kind of numbers are you looking for? I can get the number of calls (I go into the police station at least twice a week and see the call logs. I can tell you that I've written about 400 stories on crime in Caledonia since December 2010 -- those are usually felonies, and more severe misdemeanors. I don't write everything up, but a lot of those stoies involved some type of investigation. I've been a journalist for 13 years and I've covered cops in all of the communities I've covered South Milwaukee, West Allis, Greenfield, Franklin, western Racine County and Kenosha. The Village is one of the largest in land size in the state and that has a big effect on how they are able to cover the Village. Right now, they pretty much staff each eight hour shift with three patrol officers and a supervisor. The kicker is... if you get a car crash, that'll tie up an entire shift. If you get a chapter 51 (someone who is a threat to themselves or others) that'll tie up at least two officers for several hours. They are seeing more heroin, prescription med, property crimes, robberies/burglaries and car crashes. I can show you the uniform crime report stats. Does that help? Let me know... Denise

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