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Published: Thursday, 8/14/2003

Auxiliary police being discussed for Walbridge

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Walbridge officials are exploring the possibility of setting up an auxiliary police force.

Village council last week introduced an ordinance giving Mayor Dan Wilczynski the authority to start an auxiliary police department and hire the officers. After a third reading, the ordinance would become law.

“The auxiliary is something I wanted to look at to see if it would benefit that village,” Mayor Wilczynski said. “We are still in the review stage, but I'm happy the ordinance is moving along because it allows us to speed up the process if we choose to put that in place.”

The idea was generated by the council's safety committee and is being discussed by Walbridge's police chief and village manager.

“We haven't made a decision whether we will do this,” Chief Lance Martin said. “We are still looking at the things on the upside and the downside, and there are many in both directions.”

The village's police department has three full-time and three part-time officers. Chief Martin said he is considering using more part-time police officers to patrol the village.

“Right now, my daily focus is looking at the staffing level for the officers that are out on the road,” he said.

If the auxiliary department is set up, the village would decide if the officers would be armed. “A lot of that depends on what guidelines we set up for them,” the chief said. “In some departments, auxiliary officers have full police powers and carry a firearm.” Under the proposed ordinance, auxiliary officers must have a valid Ohio police officer training academy certificate.

Auxiliary police officers could be used to staff Walbridge-Fest events or help with school functions, said Karen Verbryke, village manager. “We haven't gotten down to the nitty-gritty of candidates we would look at, and we hesitate to initiate this until we have all the questions answered,” Ms. Verbryke said. “We have to think about how we would pay for uniforms, liability insurance ... and physical and mental evaluations.”

Councilman Jerry Eversman, chairman of the council's safety committee, said auxiliary officers would be useful to the village now that it no longer has dispatchers to assist its small police force, Mr. Eversman said.

In the past, for example, Walbridge officers often turned to dispatchers to help them at the police station with paperwork and other chores when suspects were arrested there, he said. Dispatching has been done out of Lake Township since February. Walbridge used to provide the dispatching for the township and Rossford, but after township officials fought with Walbridge for months over steep price increases, they decided to form their own dispatching center and took Rossford as a customer. Walbridge joined them and closed its center.

Properly screened and trained auxiliary officers could fill the void left by dispatchers, Mr. Eversman said. “We would be giving the officer a partner, somebody who can help out,” he said.

Unpaid auxiliary officers would have to be approved by the mayor and city council, he said. “The proposal now is if the chief of police finds promising people to serve in that capacity, he could bring them on,” he said.

Other communities, such as Lake Township and Haskins, where Mr. Eversman was police chief for six years, have used auxiliary officers, he said. Their use might be expanded to provide village bicycle patrols. Mr. Eversman would like to see the proposal adopted by council so that auxiliary officers could be brought on later this fall.

The Swanton village council abolished its auxiliary police unit, which included two officers, last year. The village considered replacing the auxiliary officers with part time police officers because, as volunteers, they were not always able to work when needed.

Blade staff writer Jack Baessler contributed to this report



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