Amelia village officials had a heated discussion about the village police department at their May2 meeting.
The village will be saying goodbye to their trusted police chief, welcoming new applications and making decisions about the budget for the police force all in the coming months.
Police Chief Jeffrey Sucher will be retiring June 1. The chief has served the village for 31 years and is retiring so he can spend more time with his family.
With the news of his retirement, Mayor Leroy Ellington not only wanted to address the issue of finding a new chief but also wanted to look into police department staffing and budget issues that have been a struggle for the village.
Ellington updated the public on his previous discussions with council members at their April 18 meeting.
“The police department, as it is currently staffed cannot provide enough service,” Ellington read from his April 18 report.
The solution Ellington proposed at first was a 4.5 mill police levy, a proposal he retracted after considering the present economy.
“It was a bold statement for me to ask for a levy,” Ellington said. “That being said, I have always liked having our own police department.”
However, Ellington is being forced into looking at other solutions, including outsourcing police services to the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office, because the staffing problem has gotten worse. Ellington also suggested asking the public for help with the issue.
“This is an important decision,” Ellington said. “Why not reach out to the public for guidance?”
He proposed to council members at the May 2 meeting that the village should issue a press release asking for guidance from the public. In addition, he suggested having and open discussion about the police budget and putting a survey online to collect public input.
Council members reacted to his suggestions with varying opinions.
“The morale of the police department has slowly been deteriorating,” said councilman Bob Pollitt. “I have been thinking about this for about a week.”
Pollitt suggested tabling the proposal to involve the County Sheriff’s Office and instead hire a new police chief that could bring fresh ideas to the force.
“I believe this action will raise morale,” Pollitt said.
Chuck Thacker expressed interest in partial outsourcing, and balancing police department tasks between a few officers in the village and the County Sheriff’s Office.
Ellington said balancing the two would be complicated, especially when it came to court decisions and other records. Although he said he would prefer keeping a village police department, financially the village may have trouble doing so. Some council members agreed.
“We have an obligation as far as finances go with residents,” said Todd Hart. “I think we need to look at all avenues possible and all possibilities.”
Councilman Derrick Campbell agreed that all options should be considered. In addition, after reviewing the potential ad for the new police chief, he suggested adding benefits into the salary specifications.
The ad that Ellington provided to council members had the new police chief’s salary range at $40,000 to $42,500. The council made approved a motion to include benefits in the package and all agreed that would at least take applications for a new chief for now.
“We can’t make any decisions until we have a new chief,” Pollitt said. “We are back against a wall, the only thing we can do is hire a new chief.”