Council reaffirms hiring of new police officers

There is a need, interim chief says
By: Steve Archer, Reporter
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A budgeted plan to hire two new police officers was re-affirmed 5-0 Tuesday night by the Lincoln City Council and the timing for making the hires was advanced.

At the Aug. 9 City Council meeting, Lincoln Mayor Spencer Short asked city staff to begin the recruitment process for hiring two new officers. Funding for hiring two new police officers and a lieutenant was approved by the council in June during budget deliberations.

However, Tuesday night, Councilman Paul Joiner said he would like to hire two new officers but is concerned about the city’s ability to continue funding the positions and is “not convinced the revenue is there to pay the officers into the future.”

“It feels good to hire officers; everyone knows we need it,” Joiner said. “But are these two officers essential to moving forward, given the volume of calls and the types of calls?”

Interim Lincoln Police Chief Tim Harrigan told the council that the department needs the officers.

“There were 20,000 calls for service last year and the calls for service are increasing,” Harrigan said. “I understand the concern for continued funding but, at this time, there is a need for additional officers. I recommend moving forward.”

Harrigan also recommended the city hold off on hiring the lieutenant position until after a new police chief is hired.

Councilman Stan Nader said members of both the Lincoln Area Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Lincoln Association have asked him what the city is doing to relieve local businesses of the burden of dealing with the homeless.

“I asked a Lincoln police officer what was needed and he said, ‘We need more bodies,’” Nader said. “It is within our power to provide the (department) with the resources the community is asking for.”

Short said good management of city resources is needed to allow for the continued funding of the new officers.

“This is not a want, this is a need,” Short said. “It comes down to the city manager managing our budget.”

Short added that, given the city’s recent annexation of land for the Village I development, two new officers are “frankly, a Band-aid.”

“The General Plan states one officer per 1,000 residents,” Short said. “We are at about (half); we’re a little short.”

Councilman Gabriel Hydrick said he shared Joiner’s concerns about continued funding of new officers.

 “I’m uncomfortable bringing on employees with one-time money,” Hydrick said. “We don’t just bring on an officer but the family as well.”

Hydrick also questioned the validity of the homeless issue and asked for data backing it up.

“Another officer can help to a degree. Adding one or two officers is not going to cure the homeless problem,” Hydrick said. “I prefer to see the money go to substance-abuse programs. That’s where we’ll see a difference in homelessness. I want to see the data on homelessness in Lincoln.”

On Wednesday, Short said he had asked for the hiring of new officers to be put on the agenda in order to “expedite the hiring.”

“Holding off on the lieutenant position saves money, which we should apply to hiring new officers as expeditiously as possible,” Short said.

The Lincoln Police Department has 20 police officers. Cost of the two new officers is expected to be $121,622 for six months.