I would like to express my deepest concern with Councilman Kevin Johnson and his desire to repeal Section 87 of the City Charter. This section states that there shall be an Officer directly in charge and not less than 43 other officers, patrolmen and employees.
Currently, there are 39 sworn officers of the Police Department, three records clerks, and one administrative assistant. This is a total of 43 employees of the Police Department. The Police Department is already below the minimum staffing level.
The citizens of the City of Portsmouth voted in 1987 to implement the minimum staffing levels and, along with those minimums, the citizens voted for a tax levy to help maintain those levels. This tax levy brings in approximately $2 million a year to help offset the costs of maintaining those minimum levels.
Now Councilman Johnson is eager to repeal the minimum staffing levels, but has made no mention of repealing the tax levy that supports section 87. It appears to me that Councilman Johnson wishes to keep the taxpayer's money and do away with Police and Fire personnel. I believe that if Johnson is pressing for the repeal of the minimum staffing levels then he should also support the repeal of the tax levy that was passed to maintain those levels. Councilman Johnson states that it is a financial issue for him; I would disagree. Councilman Johnson clearly has taken issue with the Portsmouth Police Department.
After reading the article in the Portsmouth Daily Times, dated Aug. 10, Johnson appears personally upset with the Police Department as a whole. Mr. Johnson owns property at 607 Chillicothe St. and shows more concern with the parking in front of his building than with the murders, drugs, prostitution, robberies, burglaries, thefts, pill mills and sexual assaults that are happening in the City.
According to the Office of Criminal Justice Services, the City of Portsmouth in 2009 reported 133 violent crimes, 2,073 property crimes, three murders, 11 rapes, 85 robberies, 34 aggravated assaults, 516 burglaries, 1,507 thefts and 50 motor vehicle thefts. From 2006 until today there have been approximately 8,000 arrests and those arrested were charged with approximately 12,309 offenses in the City of Portsmouth, as well as 8,173 traffic citations and 2,777 parking tickets. Reported crimes from the same time period are 3,092 burglaries, 13,338 thefts, 4,462 assaults, 947 robberies, 2,414 B&Es, and 4,038 domestic violence incidents. The Police Department has responded to approximately 139,648 calls for service since March 2006. This includes 5,600 crash reports. In 2004, the City of Portsmouth was listed in the top 10 most dangerous cities to live in. I believe with the crime level as high as it is, this is definitely the wrong time to talk about a reduction in police services.
I would like to invite all members of Council, along with all elected city officials, to take the time and come out and ride with officers of the Portsmouth Police Department and learn what is actually going on before they publicly criticize the Police Department. These officers are working in environments and situations that are unimaginable. I wish all city officials could see the difficulties that exist by having the Police Department separated into several different locations. I wish I could show city officials the amount of time that an officer has to spend when he makes an arrest, when he handles a traffic crash, and when he has to prepare a felony packet for court. If Councilman Johnson spent some time with the members of the Police Department and saw the day to day operations then I would welcome his input. Until then, Councilman Johnson is making an uneducated statement, based on nothing but his own personal prejudices against law enforcement.
It appears to me that there continues to be roadblocks and obstructions put up to try to keep the Police Department from operating effectively. The elimination of the support car program has caused a delay in response times and is a definite officer safety issue. The Police Department is operating out of three different locations, where the administration, patrol and detective bureaus are all separated. This creates a severe communication problem between divisions. Officers have nowhere to bring in suspects, witnesses and victims to be interviewed. Detectives have had to impose on the Scioto County Sheriff's Office for use of their interview room. Patrol Officers have to rely on New Boston Police Department to administer OVI breath tests due to not having a facility. Officers have to rely on both of these agencies to run criminal history checks on suspects due to us not having a Police Department. Obviously, we extend our appreciation to these agencies for tolerating our intrusion, but it is not their responsibility to provide these services for us.
No matter what roadblocks and obstructions are put before us, the members of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #33 are determined to provide the best service to the citizens of the City of Portsmouth. We are dedicated to making this city a safer environment for all of us to live in.
Michael Queen is president of F.O.P Lodge 33 in Portsmouth.