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SR to expand police force — but only on paper

ST. ROBERT, Mo. (Nov. 26, 2008) — Members of the St. Robert Emergency Services Committee voted Thursday evening to add additional positions to the city’s police force with the understanding that they won’t be funded for at least another year — and possibly not then, either.

Alderman Todd Williams, who chairs the Emergency Services Committee, endorsed the requests by Police Chief Curtis Curenton and told those attending a joint meeting of his committee and the St. Robert Finance Committee that he’d like to see them adopted.

“Chief Curenton has some amendments to the manning chart that he’s proposed but he’s projected them out a couple of years,” Williams said. “There are now two detectives in the department; I’d like to propose that we put a third position there for the 2009 budget year, but in 2010 we look at filling that position … His ultimate goal for his manning chart is when he’s finished rearranging the way he wants to, he’ll have a sergeant, two corporals and three detectives, and a sergeant and two corporals in the traffic division.”

Alderman Bill Urena asked about a dispatch position that would be created by transferring one staff member out of an administrative clerk position.

“The bottom line is they don’t have enough work for the admin clerks right now, but that’s for the 2010 year, not this year,” Williams said.

Several aldermen questioned the concept of adding unfunded positions to the city’s manning chart.

“What’s the difference between having it authorized and unfilled and not even worrying about it now?” asked Alderman Ralph Cook.

“It’s to help for planning,” Williams said. “If it’s on there, it’s at least something to look at and help prepare for the future.”

Responding to questions from Urena, Williams said there’s no limit to the amount of time tbe unfunded positions can be left on the city manning chart.

Cook wasn’t sure putting the position on the chart, even unfunded, was necessary.

“I’m kind of teeter-tottering, I’ll be honest,” Cook said. “I understand a tool for possibly projecting funds, but my honest opinion is do we have a need for another detective? Is our detective overwhelmed?”

Williams said there’s a definite and serious need for more police in St. Robert, and not only in the detective division.

“I wouldn’t say we are overwhelmed, but the information the chief has given me in the past with the cases and the calls for service, our police department manning is a lot lower than communities of our size,” Williams said.

St. Robert’s manning levels are less than half of the levels in comparable communities when daytime population numbers are considered, Williams said, since St. Robert police have to deal with issues caused by people who are driving through the city to Fort Leonard Wood as well as the regular resident population. The city has a total of 16 officers, or three per thousand, and that’s not enough, Williams said.

“What’s your gut feeling about having a third detective on their but unfunded?” Cook asked.

Williams said he supported the concept.

“When I looked at everything the chief gave me for projections, he’s got things going on to 2012. He’s looking out for the future,” Williams said. “It helps not only emergency services but council and everybody else.”

“He’s not going to just arbitrarily throw somebody in there?” Cook asked.

That’s not possible without city approval, Williams said.

The finance committee members voted unanimously to approve recommending the unfunded position for consideration at the Dec. 1 city council meeting, but Finance Committee Chairwoman Theresa Cook noted that there’s no guarantee it will ever be funded.

“I applaud Chief Curenton for planning for the future, but I have concerns about this position as well,” she said. “Putting this on here authorized but unfunded, I do have some issues with that. I do see a need, and I would agree to having this on here, but when it comes time next year, just because it’s on there for a year doesn’t mean it will be funded.”

“This is one we’re going to watch; we’re going to have to watch a lot of things for next year,” she said.

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