Windsor votes to fund additional police officer

Published 9:56 pm Friday, October 12, 2018

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On Tuesday, Windsor’s Town Council voted unanimously to grant Police Chief R.D. “Dan” Riddle’s request that another full-time officer position be funded.

The town, which as of 2017 had an estimated population of 2,716, currently has a total of six full-time officers, including Chief Riddle, and two part-time officers, for a total of eight. Riddle, in his memorandum to the council members, said that while there is no national staffing standard for ratios of officers to residents, the Windsor PD has always maintained a ratio of one officer for every 500 residents.

“With five full-time road officers deployed, we are now under our historical ratio and ill-prepared for future growth,” Riddle said in his memo.

Riddle explained that he and Lt. G.P. Jernigan often have to perform many administrative duties on a daily basis, such as report approval, case file management, records management and video evidence storage and review. These duties, he said, repeatedly keep him and Jernigan in the office rather than patrolling the town.

He was also concerned about his officers suffering from a burnout mentality, given that in addition to working their assigned schedules, they are often tied up in court or conducting mandatory training, necessitating frequent overtime.

“Additional work requirements like these prohibit our officers from taking vacations and days off in order to decompress and relax,” Riddle said. “Over the past year, we have had additional strain on the schedule with several officers being out injured for extensive periods of time … Officers suffering from a burnout mentality have a higher propensity to make poor decisions, thereby increasing the department’s liability.”

Councilman Walter Bernacki agreed with the chief’s reasoning, saying that it would be better for the town to spend more upfront than to have to deal with a burned-out officer making a mistake, which could be deadly.

Town Manager Michael Stallings confirmed that the new position would indeed be an additional officer, and not a replacement for Officer J.L. Harris, who left the WPD earlier this year for a position with the Virginia State Police. Officer McNett filled Officer Harris’s position not long after he left, Stallings said.

As for how the new position will be funded, Stallings said that funding options will be presented to the council at their November meeting. Stallings plans to identify existing funds in the Police Department’s budget as well as other possible sources.

Riddle, in his memo to council, said that the estimated annual salary for a full-time (40 hours per week) officer would be around $42,000. When factoring in the possibility that the officer would choose the town’s full family health coverage plan, the overall annual cost to the town for the position could rise to $61,500.60. A part-time officer, by comparison, would likely cost $32,467.24 annually, and be capped at 29 hours per week.

The problem with trying to hire part-time officers, Riddle said, is that most who would be interested in the position are already employed full-time elsewhere. Riddle explained that if he would need an additional officer at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday, a part-time officer might not be available.

Councilman N. Macon Edwards III said that while he would support funding the position, he was concerned that the town had already taken some of its tax rates, such as its meals tax, to the limit.

“The only other place we can go now is real estate, and that’s when citizens start noticing more,” Edwards said.

Stallings said the earliest the new officer would start is Jan. 1, 2019.