City OK’s added officer for stretched Cottage Grove policeCottage Grove’s Public Safety Department will add a 40th sworn police officer in 2013 to aid a patrol division officials say is stretched thin by staff members on leave.
Cottage Grove’s Public Safety Department will add a 40th sworn police officer in 2013 to aid a patrol division officials say is stretched thin by staff members on leave.
The Cottage Grove City Council approved the addition by a 4-1 vote Wednesday for a department with five of 24 patrol officers -- more than 20 percent of the force – already or due to be absent on various forms of leave, Public Safety Director Craig Woolery said.
With officers off-duty next year for reasons like military deployments and service in the state Legislature, Woolery told the Council his department would be left scrambling to fill gaps in work schedules, pulling investigative and administrative officers back into patrol cars and limiting time off for remaining employees.
City Council member Justin Olsen, a liaison to the city’s advisory Public Safety Commission, pushed for the new patrol post Wednesday, saying he does not “particularly agree with my chief of police hopping in a car taking calls.”
“When someone calls 911 for a cop, they want a cop,” Olsen said. “And, we’re missing 20 percent of our force.”
Council member Derrick Lehrke, who voted against the authorization Wednesday, said he wasn't opposed to the additional position but wanted to discuss the Public Safety Department’s staffing levels – including fire and paramedic personnel – in more depth at a council workshop. He called Wednesday’s decision “too quick.”
The added position will be cost-neutral in the 2013 operating budget approved Wednesday, officials say, funded through savings from those officers on leave and by cutting the department’s overtime costs, which have risen by 43 percent, or $33,000, in 2012 due to absences on the police force.