Milton police chief supports merger with Jackson

MILTON TOWNSHIP — Next to the aged township town hall, police Chief Charles VanDyke operates from a small police station, a converted one-car garage with its original doors lurking in the building’s ceilings.

VanDyke became the township’s police chief in 2015 after spending time in Struthers as a reserve officer and then a full-time officer with the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office. VanDyke said he had a pretty good idea of what he’d be working with when he first applied, understanding he was entering a small township without a large budget so the facilities would be inherently older.

“Our facilities are aged, they are. We’ve outgrown them, period,” he said.

“What we call an evidence room is not truly an evidence room. Since we spoke last at that town hall meeting, we’ve managed to do some upgrades to it,” VanDyke said. “However, the evidence room itself had multiple entrances to it, which an evidence room should not. The evidence room is probably about 6 feet wide and 20 feet deep, so there’s not a lot of room to store things.”

VanDyke said a new township building would be a “game changer,” as it would help with retaining and recruiting officers, and today’s officers are drawn to places where they

can get experience,

time off and have decent equipment.

An alternative VanDyke has supported is merging resources with Jackson Township and having a regional police department, as he said all police departments face similar issues with funding and recruiting.

“We primarily work with Jackson police, so from a police standpoint, we were thinking that if we could merge our departments together, if we could combine our departments together in one department, we could bring more assets to the table,” VanDyke said. “We could have a larger population to draw grants from because part of grants come from the population you serve.

Instead of having two fleets, we could have one fleet. Instead of having two computer systems, we’d have one computer system, instead of having double the amount of body worn cameras….

You could do everything a lot cheaper and a lot more efficiently with one department rather than two,” VanDyke added.

In Jackson Township, police Chief Peter Rozzi said he doesn’t think such talks have yet occurred with trustees. However, Rozzi said it’s something that has to be held off as long as possible.

“There’s a lot of workings that a lot of people don’t consider with the departments. A lot of things would have to be considered, such as wages and insurance costs, cruisers, patches, recording systems,” Rozzi said. “There’s a lot of stuff that has to be figured out for that even to be, and the trustees would have to talk about it.”

“I know a lot of departments are considering regionalization and different things, but I think it comes down to the chiefs of those departments, how they manage their budgets and their resources. We have to change not just how we’re policing, but how we are managing our budgets and have to be creative,” Rozzi added.

Rozzi said each area wants to be policed a different way, noting how different each township’s police department is from each other.

John Gocala, who retired as Youngstown State University’s police chief in 2012 and now co-commands its police academy alongside Milton Trustee Edward Villone, said he can see how some residents would be opposed. He said they may feel they wouldn’t be getting the detailed attention they would normally be getting.

However, he pointed out upsides, noting the boost in resources, fewer tax levies and an uptick in productivity.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today