“We’re currently answering as many as 800 calls per month, and we don’t have enough officers to fit the bill,” Bilbrey told council during its last meeting. “Ideally we need one more detective and a few more patrolmen, but we’re willing to take what we can get.”
During the discussion of the matter, all the council members and mayor Joe Barger agreed that the department needs to be fully staffed, but discussed the added cost that the new positions would generate.
“If the council wants to approve these hirings tonight, then I am not going to argue with that, but I do feel that we should talk about it a little more first,” Barger said. “We need to look at this for at least one more meeting.”
Bilbrey stated that all officers, including administrators, work a variety of different shifts that sometimes rotate on a weekly basis.
“We have to do what we have to do to make sure everything is covered, and sometimes that involves swing shifts and overtime,” Bilbrey said. “Our detective Patrick Mason is overloaded with cases as well.”
Council member Earl Henderson, who was very much in favor of granting Bilbrey’s request, stated that he would rather solve the problem than offer a temporary solution.
“This thing is going to keep growing and growing. … We need to fix the problem instead of just pick at it,” Hen-derson said. “I think we need to get ahead of the curve and bring in the manpower we need. We need to be on the offensive side of this issue instead of defensive and reactionary.”
The department currently operates with nine full-time officers, which includes chief Bilbrey, assistant chief Greg Wingo, and captain Chad Cardin.
Council member Nick Millwood voiced his concern over officers working too much and not having a consistent schedule.
“We don’t want worn-down officers out there patrolling our streets due to fatigue and not having enough men to cover the shifts,” he said.
The biggest reason for delaying a decision on the matter was to crunch numbers on the additional cost.
“I’m not opposed to doing what we need to do to fully staff the police department, but everybody is operating on a budget nowadays,” said councilman Terry Crawford. “We would love to give you 10 more guys, but have to be prac-tical.”
Vice mayor Randall Franks pointed out that adding officers would not only include more money in salaries, but more benefits, patrol cars, equipment, and uniforms. He also proposed the idea of bringing in assistance from the Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office.
“Ringgold residents pay the same taxes as those who live in the county,” Franks said. “Perhaps we could talk with the sheriff and come to some sort of agreement to bring in additional officers when necessary.”
Although the added cost seems to be the only major hurdle, council member Henderson stated that it should not hinder potential additions to the department.
“No price is too great to protect people,” Henderson said.
The issue is expected to be on the agenda for the next council meeting, which is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, May 29, at 7 p.m.