NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – The Niles Police Department is planning many changes to make up for a decrease in funding.
The City of Niles has been under fiscal emergency, facing a $1.5 million deficit by the end of this year if changes aren’t made. Niles financial woes were made worse after voters turned down a 0.25 percent levy increase for the city’s general fund last November.
As such, the city responded by laying off 12 employees — three of which are police officers.
The Niles Police Department took to its Facebook page Wednesday night, saying, “We can no longer continue our operations at the same level as in the past.”
According to the police department, in 2010, the department had a staff of 37 officers. But as officers retired, the city chose not to replace them, reducing the ranks to 32. With three officers down, the police department now has a staff of 29 officers and a budget which has been reduced by more than $650,000 since 2010.
Capt. Jay Holland, Niles acting police chief, said the focus will now be on basic patrol and responding to emergency calls, until staff is restored.
“We do not enjoy having to make these changes. They are however, necessary to keep uniformed first responders available to answer calls from the public,” Holland wrote. “Unfortunately, if even more officers are laid off in the future, we will have no choice but to decrease police services even further. Please be assured that this is the operational reality that we at NPD are now faced with. I would have no part of using ‘scare tactics’ nor would I allow the police department to be used in such a manner.”
The police department says these changes will go into effect immediately:
- Two detectives are being reassigned to uniform patrol to replace the patrol positions of two laid off officers.
- The Detective Division will now consist of one detective Captain and a detective — down from four total.
- Investigations by the Detective Bureau will be limited to only serious felonies or violent crimes.
- Uniform patrol officers are now responsible with following up on misdemeanor crimes, as best as staffing allows. These investigations were previously conducted by the Detective Bureau.
- The Traffic Officer is reassigned to uniform patrol to replace the position of a laid off officer. The job functions of investigating hit skip crashes, junk vehicle complaints and neighborhood traffic issues will no longer be performed. Where absolutely necessary, these duties will be investigated by a patrol officer.
- Minimum patrol officer staffing will be reduced from four to three officers on the day and midnight shifts, thereby reducing the number of cruisers on patrol and available to answer calls for service.
- The detective previously assigned to the Trumbull Ashtabula Group Drug Task Force (TAG) has been removed.
- Narcotics and drug house investigations are suspended owing to lack of detective manpower. These types of complaints will now be referred to TAG or uniformed patrol.
- The Niles Police Department Special Response Team (S.R.T.) will be deactivated.
- There will be times, due to staffing cuts, when a patrol car cannot be sent to take minor reports, such as thefts, telephone harassment, identity theft, fraud reports, etc. Lobby hours will be established so victims of these crimes can come into the station to make their reports. Calls will only be referred to lobby hours if the call volume exceeds staffing on the shift.
- NPD will no longer respond to vehicle crashes on private property, unless there are injuries, severe damage or a hit skip is involved.
- There may be times when an officer may have to wait for backup from a neighboring department before responding to a high-risk call.
- Our participation in the Trumbull County OVI Task Force and Niles High School SMASH traffic safety program will be suspended.
Holland assured residents that police will be there for residents. He urged the community to support the upcoming Police and Fire issue on the March ballot — a 0.5 percent income tax increase that would bump the income tax from the current 1.5 percent to 2 percent.