Griffith council addresses police concerns
By Michelle L. QUinn Post-Tribune correspondent October 9, 2012 10:24PM
Updated: November 13, 2012 6:13AM
GRIFFITH — Concerns about staffing, vehicles and maintenance, and radio equipment brought to the Town Council by the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 161 have received swift attention.
While new police cars won’t be purchased in 2012, the Town Council at its Tuesday night study session mapped out a plan to get through to 2013. A new radio communications system will be purchased for the department, and money for it as well as vehicle maintenance will be pulled from other accounts until the new budget kicks in and new vehicles can be purchased.
Additionally, the department’s overtime budget — a large majority of which was used to cover training pay this year and has since been nearly, if not completely, depleted — will likely be fortified by money from the Continuing Education fund, Clerk-Treasurer George Jerome said.
Councilman Rick Ryfa, R-3rd, asked Police Chief Ron Kottka why the overtime money was used for training when there was money in the Continuing Education fund. Kottka said two officers were out sick for long stretches on top of the department having had two officers retiring this spring.
The retiring officers allowed Kottka to reduce his budget by $61,000, according to Jerome.
Jerome said that he will need to check with the State Board of Accounts to see if the education money can be used to replenish the overtime but that he didn’t think it would be an issue. Kottka said he would provide Jerome and the council with a log of training hours.
The council first learned of the FOP’s concerns when its president, Officer Al Tharp, presented a letter detailing them. In it, Tharp warned that the department staffing the patrol division with just 29 officers forces it to run under its own required minimum at times and that officers have been told there’s no money for vehicle maintenance.
Tharp, who didn’t attend the meeting, said he’s pleased the council is moving quickly.
“We’re looking forward to everyone’s input, and what we want is to work toward a resolution,” Tharp said.
Ryfa previously said that if any of the issues were brought before the council this year, he nor the other council members recall when. But he said he was glad the FOP brought them to the council’s attention and that public safety is not something the town would ever let fall by the wayside.