By Michelle Dupler
The Franklin Township Police Department has reduced the number of hours when patrol cars are on the streets because of understaffing.
Police Chief Allan Wheeler told trustees at the May 22 meeting that of his staff of 10 full-time officers, three are on leave and one is being deployed to Afghanistan for reserve duty.
“I have six officers left,” Wheeler said.
After crunching the numbers on when calls are dispatched to the police department, Wheeler opted to cut back the overnight shift because that’s when the fewest calls come in.
The police department received 935 calls in the previous month, with 38 percent coming in during the shift that runs from early morning to mid-day, 43 percent coming during the afternoon to evening shift, and 17 percent overnight.
“I have to staff the busiest shifts,” he said. “I don’t want to do this, but I have no choice at this point.”
The township’s police department also uses unpaid auxiliary officers to supplement the full-time police force, but auxiliary officers are not sent out in cars on their own. Instead, they are paired with a full-time officer in a car to help spread the department’s resources as much as is possible.
Wheeler said a patrol car typically is staffed by one full-time officer, sometimes with backup from an auxiliary. Two full-time officers are never paired together in one police car.
Trustee Tim Guyton noted that it’s an agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police union that prohibits auxiliary officers from patrolling on their own and being used to staff the overnight shift. The union agreement also prohibits the department from employing paid part-time officers.
Trustee John Fleshman said he was upset that the union had insisted on that provision in collective bargaining.
Wheeler said that one officer currently on medical leave for a kidney transplant soon will apply for disability retirement. Once that officer retires, he can hire another officer to replace him.
In the meantime, Wheeler said he plans discussions with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office about assisting with law enforcement coverage for the township. He’s also looking at changing some of the shift hours to try to bridge some of the gap from the overnight shift.