London Police Dept. goes back to full force


(Posted Sept. 3, 2015)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

It wasn’t a unanimous decision, but on Aug. 20, London city council approved funding for another officer on the police force.

Police Chief David Wiseman made the request to bring his department back to full-force staffing. His department lost three officers to city budget cuts in 2012. Council later approved funding to restore two of those positions. With the most recent approval, the department is back to a full roster of 18 officers.

The cost to the city to restore the position is $60,000 in salary and benefits per year. The cost was the source of contention in council’s split vote.

Councilman Steve Scaggs noted that the city’s collection on its income tax is down by 2 to 3 percent. He said the city already spends $2 million of its $4 million budget on the police department. He said he understood Wiseman’s plea, but with concern for city finances added, “We’ve got to look at the whole, not just one department.”

Referencing the budgets cuts of 2012, Councilman Dick Minner stated, “Why were we short? Because we didn’t have the money. Are we any different now than we were then?”

In response to Scaggs’ comments, Wiseman said the city needs to stand by the promise it made to citizens when they passed the 0.5 percent income tax in 2013 to fund the fire department. The tax freed up money in the general fund for other departments, including the police depart-ment.

“The levy was sold to maintain public safety,” he said. By passing the levy, voters made their opinion clear, he said; they wanted funding for public safety.

Council president Pat Closser rebutted, noting that the police department operates around the clock and, as such, has the largest staff of any city department and therefore the largest budget.

“Do we want our police department at full staff? I would say ‘yes,’ and yes, we need to find out where to get the money (to do that),” Closser said.

One way would be to make department heads stick to their budgets, he said. The other is to cultivate new business to create new jobs, which would send income tax revenues back up, he added.

Katie Hensel, city auditor, said the police department took the biggest hit with the 2012 budget cuts. She said council needs to find a way to agree on matters as important as public safety and be more strategic with its use of funds.

Speaking personally, she said, “I think it’s high time you just fund the police department.”

Funding for the police officer was approved in a 5-2 vote with Rex Castle, Trint Hatt, Josh Peters, Roger Morris and Jason Schwaderer voting “yes” and Minner and Scaggs voting “no.”

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