During a special meeting June 15, in a council room jammed full of residents, Amelia council members continued discussions about the possible dissolving of the village police department, and once again put off a final decision.
“The purpose of this meeting is to discuss, explore and ask and answer questions about police services in the village,” Mayor Leroy Ellington said at the start of the meeting.
The topic is nothing new to council members, who have discussed financial issues with the department even before the village’s previous police chief, Jeffrey Sucher, announced his retirement in April. Since then, council members hired interim police chief John Wallace and discussed investigating a contract with the Clermont County Sheriff’s office.
Sheriff A.J. “Tim” Rodenberg and Chief Deputy Rick Combs of the Clermont County Sheriff’s Office were present at the June 15 meeting to answer any questions council members had about a drafted contract between the village and the sheriff’s office.
“I want to let you know we’re not looking to compete with other departments in this county,” Sheriff Rodenberg said about the contract. “We have a number of contracts through the county and for every one we’ve had we’ve never had complaints of any significance.”
Both Sheriff Rodenberg and Chief Deputy Combs answered a variety of questions from council members about police coverage, scheduling, costs, details about what would happen with the village department and more.
While schedules and numbers of officers in the village would change some, Sheriff Rodenberg assured council members that they would work with the village if they decided to move forward with the contract.
In addition, Sheriff Rodenberg and Chief Deputy Combs agreed they would have to hire more officers to fulfill the need of the village.
“Every officer you have here could have an opportunity to apply,” Sheriff Rodenberg said. “I am not a quantitative person. We look at the whole person, good experience, blemish-free experience.”
Sheriff Rodenberg said he knows the village has these types of officers that would be an asset to the county if needed.
Combs said if current Amelia officers were hired, they would have to go through county-level training before they could return to patrol the village on a regular basis. He said it would take about a year to get through training.
“I have complete confidence going to your department,” councilman Bob Pollitt said. “But I’d like to give ours a shot.”
After hearing from the sheriff’s office, council members turned their attention to Chief John Wallace, interim chief for the village, as he presented his report on the current department.
“In my opinion, you need to keep the village police department,” Chief Wallace said. “No if’s and’s or but’s.”
He went on to suggest areas of change that would help save the department cost, for example changing schedules to 12-hour shifts, reducing the number of officers during the slower time of 3 a.m. to 7 a.m., delaying car repairs, cutting cell phone and printing costs and more.
“I am kind of changing the way we do business,” Chief Wallace said about the plan.
Wallace also expressed concerns with outsourcing to the sheriff’s office. He brought up start-up fees if the village ever decided to have their own department again and discussed work that would have to be done to prepare for the outsource.
“No matter which way we go, I am going to be a working fool for quite a while,” Chief Wallace said.
For the residents and council members alike, there was no immediate desire to get rid of the village police department.
“Let these gentlemen do their jobs,” Greg Morehead, a resident, said at the meeting. “And help the village get back to where they should be.”
Josh Jowers, another resident concerned about adequate coverage in the village, suggested everyone ride along with local officers to confirm that county deputies will leave the village more often that village officers.
Several members of the public asked council members questions, many of which had been covered in previous meetings, and while Mayor Ellington said he is glad for public participation, at this point he said it is slowing business.
“I think hearing the public is important,” Ellington said. “While it is desired it slows things down. It makes an already hard decision harder.”
Mayor Ellington has been encouraging council members to make a decision one way or another for several months. And even after the presentations, questions and public input, the June 15 meeting stretched past 10 p.m., with no final decision.
“If I had to guess, council is considering the idea of maintaining the police department under new leadership and trying to make the best of that scenario,” Mayor Ellington said after the meeting. “At the same time, I’m looking at the same numbers they’re looking at and I’m not sure that decision is the big picture solution.”