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Savings sought
City studies options on law enforcement

Friday, August 16, 2013

By BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS -

Martinsville City Manager Leon Towarnicki has not reached any conclusions and is not ready to make recommendations about the possibility of combining some areas of two law enforcement agencies.

With the retirement of longtime Martinsville Police Chief Mike Rogers in July, Towarnicki said city officials would review the chief’s position and duties as well as look at ways to save money by possibly combining some services/areas of the Martinsville Police Department and the Martinsville Sheriff’s Office.

No recommendations will be made if there are no significant savings, he said at the time.

The police department enforces the law, conducts criminal and drug investigations, performs routine patrols and undertakes crime prevention efforts such as the National Night Out, which was held recently.

The sheriff’s office operates the jail, serves civil papers and provides security for the courtroom and other areas.

Recently, Towarnicki said, he has met with both Interim Martinsville Police Chief Eddie Cassady and Martinsville Sheriff Steve Draper to talk about their offices and get a “better feel for their operations” and organizational structure. In so doing, he has found “there may be some common areas.”

For instance, Towarnicki said both departments have administrative offices and record-keeping functions. With respect to vehicles and equipment, “there are some similarities there” as well, Towarnicki said.

“So, there are a couple opportunities where there may some sharing” or some consolidation opportunities, “but whether there would be any savings, I haven’t reached that point yet,” Towarnicki said.

He also has not been surprised at the differences or the similarities.

However, Towarnicki said “when you drill down into it and look at uniqueness, in many cases, there are significant differences.”

Police vehicles are an example of that, he said.

They appear to be similar, but patrol cars used by law enforcement officers in the police department are “designed for a certain purpose — patrol,” Towarnicki said. Those vehicles may be needed for — and can be used in — a pursuit.

Vehicles used by sheriff’s deputies mainly are used to transport inmates, he said.

“Record keeping is another area we’ve looked at,” Towarnicki said. Police records “are unique, but there are some similarities between” them and records kept by the sheriff’s office, he said.

On the surface, “there also are some similarities in training. But as you dig down deeper, the training may be very similar to a certain point, but then depending on which direction” is gone, whether law enforcement or corrections/civil service, “the training is significantly different,” Towarnicki said.

Charles Long, director of the Piedmont Regional Criminal Justice Training Academy in Martinsville, said officers who plan to work in the jail provide civil service and/or work in a courtroom (bailiff) and are required to complete an estimated 10 weeks of training.

While they are certified in their area of expertise, they are not certified as law enforcement officers by the state Department of Criminal Justice Services, Long said.

To receive law enforcement certification, officers must successfully complete 20 to 22 weeks of training, which covers various kinds of laws as well as practical, physical and other training, Long said.

Although some of the training overlaps, much of it does not, Long said.

For instance, those enrolled “in jail school still go through a defensive tactics course, but it’s a little different” than the course required by those who are going into enforcement, he said. The same holds true for EVOC (Emergency Vehicle Operator’s Course) and classes on firearms.

Towarnicki said discussions are ongoing, and so far, “I haven’t gotten to the point yet where I feel comfortable reaching any conclusions or making any recommendations.”

He anticipates the review will be completed, and any proposed recommendations made, to Martinsville City Council in September, he said.

 

 
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