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Police personnel still shifting

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The personnel situation at the Yellow Springs Police Department continues to be unstable as two of the newest officers on the local force resigned their positions in the last two months, and a third has been on leave since Jan. 1. Though the department recently hired one replacement officer and completed a 2013 plan to hire another, the department is currently down one officer. That brings the number of full-time officers to seven, one less than the previous level of eight, and one of those officers is assigned full-time to the Greene County ACE Task Force in Xenia while another is a trainee.

“Even with two more people, we can just maintain — but when someone’s on vacation or is sick, we feel it,” Pettiford said this week. “It’s a strain.”

Officer Patrick Roegner, who has been with the department for over six years, was placed on paid administrative leave on Jan. 1, the same week the department promoted its two sergeants, Naomi Penrod and Josh Knapp. Roegner had been a candidate for promotion, and the one with the most local seniority, but withdrew his name shortly before the promotions were announced, several local officers said. While Pettiford declined to comment on the reasons for Roegner’s leave, he said this week that he hopes to have Roegner back “fairly soon.”

Officers Luciana Lieff and Jon Matheny were both recent graduates of the Greene County Police Academy when they began their first policing positions in Yellow Springs last year. Matheny stayed about nine months before transferring to Fairborn Police Department in February, and Lieff was here about a year before leaving March 28 for a job with the Xenia Police Department.

According to Pettiford, larger departments are attractive because they pay more, starting officers at an hourly rate that’s $2 or $3 higher than Yellow Springs. Bigger departments also offer more opportunities for leadership and advancement. Though Yellow Springs added two sergeant positions last year, currently there are no upper level positions to fill in the local department.

To replace one of those officers, the local department hired Randall (R.J.) Hawley, a nine-year police veteran who came dually trained as an officer and dispatcher from Sugarcreek Police Department. And to fulfill a previous plan to hire a new officer in 2013, the department hired Jeffery Bean, formerly a corrections officer with the Greene County Sheriff and a part-time Cedarville police officer. Bean has been in law enforcement for seven years, said Pettiford, who still hopes to hire a replacement for Lieff within the next few weeks.

That hire would bring the department to a total of nine officers, a higher number of officers than the department has had in at least two years, and a staffing rate the Village indicated within the past two years was adequate for safe and continuous patrol of Yellow Springs. In addition, Yellow Springs has its own dispatch, with three full-time week-day personnel (head dispatcher Rita Check, Ruth Peterson and Chris Collins) and an additional four part-time dispatchers for weekends and substitutions (Randall Newsome, Teresa Newton, Tiffany Hartpence and Larry Campbell.) In February, Pettiford requested that the Village authorize the hiring of a tenth officer and two part-time dispatchers, but Village Council rejected the plan. And according to FBI statistics, even before the most recent hires, the local department was staffed at a level above the national average and well beyond many area small towns with similar crime rates.

So instead, the existing officers will serve dual roles, Pettiford said. Sergeant Penrod oversees the day shift officers and the dispatch crew and also manages the property room. Sergeant Knapp oversees the night shift officers. And Pettiford hopes to continue ongoing training for all the local officers, including crisis intervention or CIT training to deal with people in distress.

With enough training, local officers could eventually become instructors themselves, using the village as a training center, Pettiford said. Because Yellow Springs, with a bike path, eight alcohol serving establishments, two banks and a major credit union, attracts an unusually large number of people for a town its size, local police are typically responding to a population that’s much bigger than the resident count would indicate, Pettiford said. The opportunity to train could help to bring strong officers to the village and act as an asset to the small department, Pettiford said.

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