By Ed Runyan
It’s not easy being the Warren Township Police Department because of the township’s geography and history in relation to the city of Warren.
As the city grew over the past 200 years, smaller and smaller parts of the township were left.
The populated parts of the township that remained off the fringes of the city didn’t receive many of the services enjoyed by city dwellers, such as sewers.
Today, the largest neighborhoods in Warren Township are among the poorest in the county — the Meadowbrook neighborhood off of North Leavitt Road and the streets just south of Warren’s Jefferson K-8 school building on Tod Avenue Southwest.
Both neighborhoods have numerous blighted homes slated for demolition.
Twice this year, police found the bodies of Warren residents in Warren Township just south of the city, giving the township half as many homicides as Warren.
But unlike the cities of Youngstown and Warren, Warren Township doesn’t have a large police force to combat crime.
In the past two years, the number of full-time Warren Township police officers has dropped from eight to five because of the loss of property taxes and state funding, said Lt. Don Bishop, the department’s only management employee and one of the five officers.
“We had 12 [police] cars. We’ve got seven to save money. We’ve cut money any place we could,” said Bishop.
The department wants some additional officers, some newer police cars and some newer weapons to replace ones that are 17 years old. To accomplish this, township trustees placed a 4-mill additional levy on the ballot for the upcoming election. It will raise $279,804 annually for an indefinite period of time.
Trustee Kay Anderson said the trustees decided to put the additional levy on the ballot after residents came to them asking for something to be done to ensure the township can keep a 24/7 police operation.
Bishop says the department operated with four officers for most of the past two years but got a fifth officer in August after the police union agreed to a new wage and benefits scale for new employees.
The contract pays new hires less than under the old contract. A new hire makes $15.26 per hour, and it will take him or her five years to reach the top pay scale of $21.80 instead of three years before. He or she will receive reduced benefits.
The department has consistently used about nine part-time officers.
“We’re just trying to live within the means of the community,” Bishop said, adding that the department needs to maintain a certain minimum amount of service or not exist. “You can’t be in existence if you get to nothing,” Bishop said.
The department’s four full-time police officers in 2010 and 2011 took a three-year wage freeze early this year. They received 2 percent pay raises in 2010 and 2011, increasing a patrolman’s pay from $20.95 per hour in 2009 to $21.37 per hour in 2010 and $21.80 in 2011.
The pay increases cost the township about $3,494 in 2010 and $3,578 in 2011, or about $884 per police officer per year.