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GIRARD Reduced staffing puts stress on cops, chief says



Published: Fri, February 14, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The police department feels betrayed by the city administration, the chief said.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

GIRARD -- Police Chief Anthony Ross says the lack of manpower is stressing out city police officers, with more than a third of them on medication for high blood pressure.

"In reducing our staffing levels drastically, the administration has increased the stress levels of all the officers," Ross told city council Monday.

When at full strength, the department has 29 employees. That has been reduced to 16 officers, in some cases because of long-term illnesses.

Of the 16, Ross explained, six are on blood-pressure medication. He said some are under doctors' care for other stress-related problems.

Fire Chief Kenneth Bornemiss countered Ross' assertion that the fire department is at full strength, having added two firefighters.

Bornemiss pointed out that he has 16 full-time firefighters with three on sick leave. The staffing is the same as it was in 1978.

Impact on officers

Ross said that because of staff reductions, his officers are arriving at work "skeptical, tired and very demoralized."

"The officers, myself included, feel we have been slapped in the face by the city. In an already thankless profession, we feel betrayed by the city for not helping our department strive for more personnel, equipment, software and training," Ross asserted.

During questioning by Councilman Joseph Christopher, D-at large, Ross acknowledged that he is able to put the minimum required two police cars on patrol per turn.

Financial situation

Frank Rich, director of safety and human resources, responded that because of the city's financial problems, the administration has been forced to make cuts.

Rich acknowledged the administration has decided to maintain staffing in the fire department as long as it stays within its budget.

He explained that the administration and council hope to increase the police department to 19 officers.

But Rich cautioned that the city went into this year with an accumulated general-fund deficit of $1.3 million and that the availability of state funds has been reduced.

"His [Ross'] department needs help; so do we all," Rich added.

Ross said the current staffing levels are "dangerous to the community and to the lives of my officers."

This is the second time this year that Ross has addressed city council about reduced manpower in his department.

yovich@vindy.com




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