By Sue Botos
A quick identification by police of the gunman in the Jan. 22 Rocky River shooting seemed to re-enforce police Chief Kelly Stillman’s assurance that despite a tighter budget, the city is a safe place to live.
“Our goal is that residents don’t notice that we are running on a leaner budget,” Stillman commented during a recent appropriations presentation to City Council. He gave an overview of several areas where the budget had been cut back, and elaborated on a few items on his wish list.
The proposed police general fund budget stands at $2,840,200, in contrast to the 2012 number of $2,957,355.
“We’re still two patrolmen down,” said Stillman, adding that he still hopes to reinstate the Community Service Officer program, which was discontinued last year due to finances. The CSOs wear police uniforms, and perform duties such as emergency traffic direction, which do not require a sworn officer.
Stillman also pointed out the savings from the retooling of the crossing guard force from more than 20 posts in 2011 to the present 13. After last year’s controversy, which caused many guards to walk away claiming they were underpaid, Stillman said guard salary has shrunk from $250,000 to $63,000. “We went over each position, and it has worked well. It’s running like a fine-tuned machine now,” he stated.
A police administrative assistant position has also been eliminated, and youth services co-coordinator Julie Morron has taken up that duty in addition to her present work with D.A.R.E. and other juvenile functions.
On the plus side, council Safety Committee Chairman Tom Hunt reported that police will receive $65,000 in a D.A.R.E. grant, a portion of which goes toward funding Student Resource Officer Mike Bernhardt at Rocky River High School.
Stillman added that about $220,000 is expected to be netted by POPAS (Police Officers on Patrol Arresting Speeders). In addition, a county grant for $28,000 went toward three new mobile data terminals. “Now all of our cars will have video (capability),” he continued.
One topic for future discussion, according to Stillman, will be technology, particularly IT support. “Lt. (Bill) Crates does what he can now, but it’s a full-time job. It’s taxing on him and taxing on the department,” Stillman noted. He added that the booking room computers are about 8 to 10 years old, and have the expected issues.
The possibility of collaboration with other communities sometime during the next few years is also a consideration, especially when it comes to communications. “Our system is antiquated,” he stated. Stillman noted that some communities have “piggybacked” with Cleveland for communications purposes. He added that the new software system, accompanied by the switch to 12-hour work shifts from the standard eight-hour schedule, has been considered by Lakewood and Westlake.
The change in the work schedule was a highlight of the past year. “It’s going great, everyone likes it. It’s been a breath of fresh air,” Stillman said. “We haven’t seen a lot of overtime, and sick time is few and far between,” he noted.