provide for more cops
to what it sees as strong public demand, the Coons
administration will ask County Council to expand the county
police force by more than a third over the next five years.
Key goal of the
expansion is to reduce the overall crime rate in the county by
Council agrees to the proposal as quickly as it will be asked to
do, the expansion could get underway as soon as December when a
new police academy class is scheduled to begin training.
proposal, nearly a year in the making, is to increase authorized
strength of the force from the present 364 officers, by 117 more
officers and 12 civilian positions before the end of fiscal year
2013. Twenty-two officers would be added and seven freed from
administrative-type assignments by hiring civilians during the
remainder of the current fiscal year.
police strength is the larger of two components of a public
safety proposal presented to a meeting of Council's public
safety committee on Sept. 30. When time ran out because members
were obligated to begin their bi-weekly plenary session, the
committee meeting was adjourned for a week. When it resumes,
members will hear a proposal for additional staffing of its
emergency communications operation.
the two "separate but related" proposals will cost $1.7 million
this fiscal year and $3.5 million in each of the next four
fiscal years, according to the county's chief administrative
officer Jeffrey Bullock.
chief financial officer Edward Milowicki said that would be
equivalent to a 4% to 5% increase in the property-tax rate.
laid down a blunt challenge to Council: "Do not move forward to
authorize these plans if you're not willing to pay for them."
million public safety
proposals come in the wake of a $7 million proposal to
significantly upgrade the county's sanitary- and storm-sewer
network to comply with an environmental mandate to eliminate
overflows into the Delaware River by the end of 2018 that was
put before Council on Sept. 23. That will require a 5% to 7%
increase in sewer fees.
increases cannot occur before the fiscal year which begins July
1, 2009. Meanwhile, both will be have to be financed by dipping
not in an emergency; we're not in a crisis," Bullock said. "But
the pressure on our public safety services is going to
members did not respond per se to the police-expansion plan, but
there appears to be a consensus among them that the adequacy of
police protection is the primary topic at civic meetings and in
other interactions with constituents. Public safety committee
co-chairmen Bill Bell and Jea Street, in particular, have long
been outspoken advocates of a stronger force.
chief Rick Gregory gave the committee a detailed briefing which,
in substance, seemed to indicate that the force is providing the
public with a reasonable degree of protection but is stretched
too thin to do all that it, and the public, would like to have
it do. That boils down to being almost entirely responsive to
calls for service and not doing enough in the way of community
policing and preventive patrolling.
now, he said, a typical tour of duty has an officer "going from
call, to call, to call."
ask our officers to do more than they are doing. They are maxed
out," he said.
officers and civilians in support roles will enable the force to
beef up both patrol and detective divisions, he said. Effects of
that would not be seen, however, until after the current fiscal
year ends. It takes nine months of both academic and on-the-job
training before an officer is fully qualified for duty.
Gregory said eventual goals of
the expansion are to increase the amount of time officers are
not committed to responding to calls from the present average of
24% to 50% and cutting in half the time it takes to respond to a
call. Response time, he said, now ranges from seven-and-a half
minutes for the highest priority calls to two hours for route
The county police force covers
unincorporated areas and municipalities which do not have their
own forces. Wilmington, Newark, Middletown, Elsmere, New Castle
and Newport as well as the University of Delaware have their own
The more non-committed time that
is available the more officers are free to follow up on
complaints, provide surveillance directed by trends in criminal
activity and "to create early intervention of potential
problems," he said.
Councilwoman Stephanie McClellan
said that comes down to allowing county police to be "proactive
as well as reactive."
Gregory said the increase in
authorized strength being sought is not an arbitrary number but
one that was calculated by a formula worked out with the
University of Delaware's urban affairs department. He said it
will be possible to recruit the personnel necessary to fill the
authorized positions. "We have a good base of applicants, he
said. "I'm confident we can do it."
The staffing analysis called for
in a resolution enacted by Council in November, 2007, was
conducted entirely in-house.
Bullock said the conclusions
reached concerning the need relative to population growth and
increases in crimes are both realistic and attainable.
"We need to enter this with our
eyes wide open," he said.