Mayor’s Notes, June 14th
The warm weather puts people in contact with our police officers more frequently at festivals, in parks and on the water. Occasionally, questions about the Vermilion Police Department will reach my office. I will try to answer a few of the broader questions I am asked aboutour VPD.
Can’t we police with technology?
Technology helps. But, in the end policing is a people business. With people go expenses. VPD is the city’s biggest department. Under Chief Hartung, salaries, benefits and training consume most of the department’s budget. Equipment comes second and much of the equipment is overdue for replacement. The department invests in well trained people. You and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
How big a department do we really need?
The F.B.I. provides guidance regarding how many officers a city should have. Their recommendation is that a Vermilion sized city should have 25 uniformed-full time officers. VPD has 18. The F.B.I. recommends thatdispatchers, admin staff, etc, should total 35. Vermilion’s staff is 23.
The VPD is staffed appropriately or a little under for a city Vermilion’s size. The swell of summer population is handled through skillful time management and increased use of part time officers.
A busy VPD makes for a safe Vermilion.
Vermilion was recognized as one of Ohio’s safest cities by the National Council for Home Safety and Security in 2017. VPD responded to 36,740 calls for service in 2017, operated a K-9-unit, school resource officer, marine patrol, detective bureau, narcotics focus, safety town and other initiatives with its lean staff. This doesn’t count winning a lengthy homicide case last year, mutual aid to other communities and support of our court.
So, why do these guys need a boat?
The U.S. Coast Guard’s Lorain Station has reduced its patrols. From a staff of 30, it is down to 5. It may close due to Federal cuts.USCG’s Marblehead Station is 23 miles away. VPD’s Marine Patrol fills the gap to protect our waterborne population. From 2012-17, the annual average VPD Marine Patrol hours have gone from 229/year to 343 in 2017. Under Sgt. Gordon Adams, most of Marine Patrol activities were vessel inspections and written safety warnings, plus 14 search and rescues of which seven were documented to have saved lives.
VPD Marine Patrol has stepped up and done what is necessary to keep our large boating community safe. It’s a big job in a community built on the water.
What about those bad headlines?
Yes, it was painful. VPD had a run of highly publicized misbehavior by a few individuals a couple years ago. Nationwide, there has been a reexamination of law enforcement operations and values. We were not alone. As a career manager, I applaud the previous administration and Chief Hartung. Rather than hush up the bad behavior and circle the wagons around the errant individuals, the infractions were publicly addressed. Offenders were separated from the VPD, one was prosecuted and eventually imprisoned. A strong message was sent about the values of the VPD. It was a huge consumption of administration time. It was a field day for the media. But, the VPD is a stronger law enforcement organization because of it.
What’s ahead for the VPD?
The current average age of a VPD officer is 41. In the next few years five of the most experienced officers will retire. The average age of our department will drop dramatically. Energetic young officers are joining the department, many with military experience. They bring a willingness to learn and serve the community. But, the departure of our veteranofficers will drain VPD of irreplaceable experience. Chief Hartung’s 18 years of experience and demonstrated administrative skill will be critical.
Vermilion is a beautiful town with many valuable resources. I count the VPD as one of them. If you see an officer keeping order in the heat of this year’s festivals, please say thank you.