Ocean View is trying to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to its growing population and public safety.
The Ocean View Town Council voted unanimously this week to allow Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin to apply for the 2017 COPS Office Hiring Program (CHP) Grant.
“We’re getting busier, and we haven’t added any additional staff, as far as sworn police officers, since 2004,” said McLaughlin.
A staffing study conducted in 2010 recommended the department be at 8.5 officers at that time. Currently, the department has nine officers, but the area’s population has continued to grow.
“It’s going to get busier. We know it’s coming. I don’t know what the answer is. In addition to this application, I think we need to think about how to fund public safety — not just police, but fire and EMS as well… We have a lot of folks reaping the benefits, whether it’s police, fire or EMS, and not contributing to the kitty.
“I think we need to start taking a look at that. It’s only going to get more expensive. We’re going to have to start hiring officers in the future to meet the demand as the town grows.”
McLaughlin noted that, in 2010, some of the subdivisions in the town weren’t even on the radar, and the surrounding areas are growing at the same pace.
“I think, if nothing else, for officer safety we need to have two officers on at any time… I’m worried about our folks being out there by themselves.”
McLaughlin said he has applied for the grant three times and received $125,000 twice.
“This is a competitive grant. There is a huge need for police officers all across the country.”
Councilman Bill Olsen suggested that the Town consider reaching out to the Town of Millville again, to broaden its police coverage. Back in 2010, the two towns discussed the possibility of Millville paying for police services; however, Millville chose instead to continue to pay for additional Delaware State Police coverage.
Mayor Walter Curran said he wasn’t sure how fruitful such a discussion would be, as Millville just expanded its facilities for the state police.
“It’s a spot for them to stop and wash their car,” McLaughlin replied. “They don’t have the equipment necessary to process a prisoner in that building. They don’t have any holding facilities or digital fingerprinting machines… The end result, to be quite honest with you, is that they continue to use our station, as they have in the past.”
McLaughlin said he doesn’t know what the answer is but that he is a fan of regionalization of law enforcement.
“I think it’s something we need to take a look at, because our operations here in Ocean View are only going to get more expensive.”
The council unanimously agreed to allow McLaughlin to apply for the grant.
“I think it’s a no-brainer,” said Councilman Tom Maly, noting that all departments will grow as the population continues to increase.
Moving forward, McLaughlin said, he would be identifying current qualified, certified candidates. He said he would prefer not to send a new recruit to the police academy, because “that’s essentially one year you lose that we pay for, that we’re not really getting any benefit from.”
He also requested, if the Town submits the grant application, that Curran sends a letter to the state’s Congressional delegation, informing them of the application and requesting their support.
Curran said he would certainly write a letter. He also noted that, if the grant were awarded to the Town, it would not take effect until the 2019-fiscal-year budget.
“It’s not so much the crime-fighting calls for service, it’s all the other things we do for our community — the residential checks, the business checks, the school monitoring program, welfare checks — these take a lot of time but are a vital service… That means a lot for anyone who lives in the town of Ocean View.”