Ohio University Police Department’s decision to hire five more officers stems from a two-pronged concern, said OUPD Chief Andrew Powers.
The department faces a changing Ohio University, with more time-consuming calls for service, and a changing world, in which large-scale events such as the Boston Marathon have been attacked.
Powers said the five officers would enable the department to tackle “increased demands” for law enforcement, such as a push for more personnel at special events as the department has made changes in staffing and added extra safety measures.
“We are doing more visible things like enhanced bag-checks and the use of the bomb-(sniffing) dogs,” Powers said. “We’re also staffing (events) differently from what we have in the past, and that has increased the demands for our officers as well.”
He added that the type of calls OUPD has been receiving lately were more complex and time-consuming for the officers on staff, which affects the amount of time officers spend on routine patrols.
“We want officers to have a certain amount of time on routine patrol because the visibility of officers on patrol helps deter crime.” Powers said. “It is also while engaged in routine patrol that officers can catch crimes in progress.”
Calls for felonies and “emotionally disturbed persons” are two examples of more complex calls OUPD is handling in growing numbers, he said.
The department received 53 calls for emotionally disturbed persons in 2013 — a 31 percent surge from the 37 reports received in 2012, according to a previous Post article.
“The additional patrol officers will ensure the department can continue dedicating the amount of time to all of our calls that those calls demand and deserve,” Powers said.
The money for the five additional officers is tied up in a budget request for the fiscal year 2015, which is still being reviewed by university officials and will come before the Board of Trustees for a vote in June. The proposed budget for OUPD’s proposal is $407,754, about $7,000 less than university officials had previously estimated.
The base cost of hiring five additional officers is about $341,021, and the almost $67,000 remaining would be used to pay for the “start-up” cost of the officers and the bomb-sniffing dog.
Stephanie Filson, an OU spokeswoman, said the budget would also cover the officers’ benefits and pension costs.
Powers said the beginning salary for an OUPD officer would depend on the candidate’s experience and education. A cadet who has not completed the basic academy could earn a minimum of $18.53 an hour, or about $38,000 per year,
while a certified police office with a bachelor’s degree and at least five years of full-time experience might earn as much as $26.49 an hour, or about $55,000 per year.
The department’s budget request assumed each of the officers made “a figure near the middle of the possible pay rates,” Powers said.
But Powers noted the budget request includes “complex” factors such as any overtime that might be earned or costs the university would have to incur, such as worker’s compensation insurance and pension contributions. No estimates for these factors were provided.
Stephen Golding, vice president of finance and administration, said the university will be holding budget forums on campus later this month to discuss these matters, after which “we will be prepared to make a final recommendation to the president as to how we want to proceed with addressing this initiative.”
Another objective of the new hires would be to restore most of the positions eliminated by budget cuts.
Ten years ago, OUPD operated with a staff capacity of 32 full-time officers, but the number was reduced to 25 throughout the years, Powers said.
A proposal was made last summer to bump the number of full time-officers in his department from 25 to 30 — restoring five of the seven full-time positions that had been cut.
“It’s not that we’re making a huge increase to the department, although it may seem that way,” Powers said. “We’re actually on the road to getting back to
where we have historically been staffed.”