Township to hire more officers, dispatchers

By: Sherri Kolade | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published June 11, 2013

WEST BLOOMFIELD — Residents may soon see more officers patrolling the streets.

The West Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees unanimously approved hiring three additional police officers and two full-time dispatchers to replace five part-time dispatchers during a May 20 township board meeting. 

“Could we always use more officers? The answer almost universally is going to be, ‘Yes,’” West Bloomfield Police Chief Michael Patton said recently. “We approached the board, we looked at the numbers, and it seems to be currently sufficient funding.”

The West Bloomfield Police Department — which dispatches to West Bloomfield, Keego Harbor, Sylvan Lake and Orchard Lake — has 70 officers; peak staffing is at 82, Patton said.

After coming out of a hiring freeze, Patton said the township is “mindful” about its financial status.

“We would like to think, to a certain extent, the township is coming out of that period, and revenues are hopefully starting to increase because we receive most of our funding — if not all — from property taxes,” Patton said. “We also operate from a dedicated public safety millage renewed a year or so ago.”

Patton said the department has been down 12 officers, including fallen Sgt. Patrick O’Rourke, killed in the line of duty in 2012, and another officer who left due to criminal circumstances several years ago. The remaining officers retired at different times.

Patton said the last officer hired was in 2007 or 2008.

“You get a couple retirements every year, and it is just an accumulative effect, and you start to decline,” he said.

Patton said that after all the officers are hired, it will bring his department up to 73 officers. Three officers plan to leave the department; one found a local job and two are leaving the state.

“The original approval from the township board was to hire three new officers. That would have taken us up to a staffing of 73, but we also now have three police officers that are leaving,” he said. “We are currently looking to hire six new police officers — the three that were originally authorized, and three replacements, for a total of six.”

They plan to hire two-full time dispatchers to cap the turnover rate.

“We historically have always had one or two part-time dispatchers who worked 24, 32 hours a week amongst our staffing,” he said.

The department has also looked at ways to increase the overall number of dispatchers.

“We came up with a formula that we are going to maintain the core of 12 full-time, and it was sort of a budget-neutral experiment to have five part-time,” he said.

West Bloomfield Police Lt. Tim Diamond said the department currently has 12 full-time dispatchers, and the two full-time dispatchers will make a total of 14.

“The last couple of years, hiring part-time (dispatchers), for one reason or another, has not worked out,” he said. “We don’t have five part-time dispatchers now. (It) has been a decision not to hire part-timers anymore.”

After trying out that formula for nearly a year, he said, the department was unable to have dispatchers maintain the part-time positions.

“It was almost 100 percent turnover amongst those part-timers,” he said. “It got to be such a revolving-door issue.”

Human Resources Director Denise Maier said the five part-time dispatchers’ combined salary is $170,574; two full-time dispatchers would earn $128,612, annually. The annual cost savings for the two full-time dispatchers in comparison to five part-time is $41,962.

A new police officer, coming out of the police academy, would earn $70,000 a year, plus benefits.

“They come in slightly higher than if not in an academy,” Maier said. “Ninety-five percent of applicants have been through the academy.”

Patton said that because of employment turnover, he hopes to hire not only police officers and dispatchers, but also cadets.

“We want the (application) list to be at least six deep,” he said.