Archive for Sunday, May 4, 2003

Police hope to map future

City Commission expected to approve planning consultant

May 4, 2003


Lawrence Police have long complained they're understaffed and overworked. The city wants to change that.

The Lawrence City Commission on Tuesday is expected to approve a proposal to hire a consultant who will map out the manpower, equipment and facility needs of the Lawrence Police Department over the next 15 years.

"I think we constantly re-evaluate our needs in personnel," Police Sgt. Mike Pattrick said. "Obviously, the city is only going to gain in size, and not decrease."

The Police Department is adding five detectives and a "traffic unit" this year -- one of the few departments the Lawrence City Commission agreed to add staffing to in 2003 despite lean budget times. Overall, the department has an authorized force of 138 officers, plus 33 civilian positions and 12 school crossing guards.

But Police Chief Ron Olin has said the department's staffing levels weren't equal to those of similarly sized cities, and has pushed the commission for even more officers.

"The difference between what's requested and what's been made available has been pretty significantly different," Mayor David Dunfield said. "I think we need to step back and make sure we're heading in the right direction in terms of the kind of force we need."

City Manager Mike Wildgen said it had been nearly a decade since police created a master plan for the future.

"The idea is to get some fresh ideas," Wildgen said.

A consultant should be chosen by midsummer, officials said, and recommendations should be in hand by the end of the year.

Wildgen warned the recommendations wouldn't necessarily mean action. Commissioners would still have to find money to pay for any new officers, equipment or buildings proposed in the final report.

"It doesn't mean we'll have the resources to fund the recommendations," Wildgen said. "That's a separate issue."

Dunfield said it was important to proceed with planning, even when the money to act was unavailable.

"It helps us to set priorities," he said. "We need to make sure that the decisions we're making are putting us in a position to respond when the economy turns around."

The commission meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

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