Darien board, police chief discuss coverage issue
DARIEN The police chief is concerned about service.
The village board is concerned about funding.
On Monday, village of Darien officials and Police Chief Hunter Gilmore met to discuss how—or if—to fill a position left open by the resignation of officer Mike Maltese.
The meeting was designed to be a discussion session, and no decisions were made. However, the board did ask Village Administrator Diana Dykstra to look for money both in the contingency and police department budgets that could be used to pay for a new officer.
Part of the challenge is the payout the village agreed to give Maltese.
Maltese resigned more than two weeks ago under unknown circumstances. The Gazette has filed an open records request for documents surrounding his resignation.
Maltese's payout was alluded to during Monday's meeting, but it wasn't discussed. Whatever the amount, it's money that can't be used for a new officer.
With the loss of one officer, Gilmore said he would not have the manpower to cover about 20 shifts in July and just as many, if not more, in August.
The Walworth County Sheriff's Office could fill in, Gilmore said, but service would not be the same.
"They do a great job, they really do, but they're not here to serve Darien," Gilmore said of the sheriff's office.
When all positions are filled, the village has five full-time officers, including the chief.
According to Wisconsin Department of Justice Crime statistics for 2010, Darien has 3.1 full-time officers per 1,000 residents. That compares to 3.3 officers per 1,000 for the Fontana Police Department, 2.3 for the Walworth Police Department and 2.7 for the Williams Bay Police Department.
The Delavan Police Department has 2.3 officers per 1,000 residents, but larger departments usually are able to take advantage of the economics of scale.
Village board member Kurt Zipp summed up the issue.
"Because our police department is so small, when one person leaves it creates a much larger problem," he said. "We don't have the flexibility larger departments do."
Dykstra tackled the other issue.
"The pot of money is only so big," she said. "When it's gone, where will the money come from?"
Perhaps one of the older squad cars could be sold, Gilmore said.
"I don't want to give up that third vehicle, but maybe we need to look at that," he said.
Gilmore also had planned to send officers to training, but those classes were canceled for budgetary reasons.
Gilmore and Dykstra said they planned to review the department's budget for possible savings and make sure grants and other money had been credited.
The board will take up the issue of hiring a new officer at its next meeting Monday, July 16.