Police and fire staffing quotas to be debated by council


By Derrick C Parker - For The Daily Times



The Charter of the City of Portsmouth Police and Fire quota, where minimum staffing levels for the Portsmouth Police and Fire Departments are 44 each, were discussed Monday during a City Manager’s Meeting.

The Charter of the City of Portsmouth Police and Fire quota, where minimum staffing levels for the Portsmouth Police and Fire Departments are 44 each, were discussed Monday during a City Manager’s Meeting.


PORTSMOUTH – Currently, the Charter of the City of Portsmouth states that the minimum staffing levels for the Portsmouth Police and Fire Departments are 44 each. However, that could soon change.

First Ward Councilman Sean Dunne brought up a discussion on the subject in the City Manager’s agenda meeting Monday evening.

“These quotas were established in the late 1980s,” said Dunne. “This reminds me of the problems with mandatory minimum sentencing – which has been disastrous. As a city, we hire a city manager to make a variety of decisions and one is in the area of city employees.”

The City of Portsmouth has seen a 10% drop in population over the last decade. Dunne said such a drop could be a reason for examining these established employee quotas.

“At the same time we’ve seen a fluctuation in population, we also see changes in technology… I’m not advocating to lower the current number of fire and police, but having a fixed number when all these other variables can change does not make sense.”

Dunne then asked the city manager to put the issue on the next agenda. His plan is to create a ballot issue and let the citizens of Portsmouth decide if the quota should remain or be abolished.

Much of the council remained silent on the issue besides 2nd Ward Councilwoman Charlotte Gordon.

“I agree with Councilman Dunne. The charter is the law of the city. It’s not about staffing levels. Staffing levels should not be found within the charter.”

City Solicitor John Haas was a vocal opponent of the idea.

“Population has nothing to do with the number of police officers or firefighters,” said Haas. “It’s the number of calls. It’s the crime levels…any sociologist will tell you that.”

Dunne, who has his doctorate in Sociology from the University of Dublin in Ireland and teaches at Shawnee State University, responded.

“I’m a sociologist,” he retorted. “I’m not advocating for a reduction in staffing. I’m saying there are a variety of situations. What if there are two positions to fill? Maybe the city manager would rather give raises than hire another. There are a number of things that can affect that decision making. We are paying a city manager to take care of staffing and we should trust him to make these decisions,” Dunne said. “Having a fixed number is illogical.”

Haas then stated the reason for the Charter Quota – stating the late 1980s, the fire and police departments were asked to campaign for an income tax increase.

“The city badly needed it,” explained Haas. “As part of the campaigning agreement, the city would support a minimum staffing level of 44. The fear was as soon as there were money troubles, the city would lay off police and fire again.”

Haas also promised future debate of the issue would be “interesting,” indicating the PPD and PFD may rally against such a ballot measure.

In the end, City Manager Sutherland agreed to add it to the next conference agenda to be voted on by council.

The Charter of the City of Portsmouth Police and Fire quota, where minimum staffing levels for the Portsmouth Police and Fire Departments are 44 each, were discussed Monday during a City Manager’s Meeting.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2021/11/web1_Portsmouth-Fire-rescue.jpgThe Charter of the City of Portsmouth Police and Fire quota, where minimum staffing levels for the Portsmouth Police and Fire Departments are 44 each, were discussed Monday during a City Manager’s Meeting.

By Derrick C Parker

For The Daily Times

Reach The Portsmouth Daily Times at (740) 353-3101 or by email at PDTNews@aimmediamidwest.com.

© 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

Reach The Portsmouth Daily Times at (740) 353-3101 or by email at PDTNews@aimmediamidwest.com.

© 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved