Monday, February 25, 2008

FAST Program Slows Athens Police Department

By Jessica Hurtt

Photo Courtesy Athens PD

In 1995 the Clinton administration announced a program to help law enforcement agencies form partnerships with their communities to develop innovative ways to address longstanding problems. The COPS FAST program went into effect in Athens in 2001.

The three-year grant offered the city money to hire enough officers to get up to full staff. But after the three years. the city had to absorb the costs of the officers they hired while they had the grant.

Captain Tom Pyle explains the cause of the shortage

Current Police Shortage
The current shortage is not directly related to budget issues. City Council has budgeted enough money for the department to have 28 officers on staff, but the police department only employs 22 sworn personnel. Five of the positions are unfilled, and one officer has a long-term commitment to the National Guard.

At any given time roght now in Athens, there are only about three officers on duty. So, depending on the type of call, the wait for an officer to respond could be around 40 minutes. The city department frequently works with the OU Police Department and the Athens County Sheriff's office to respond to calls. Although the city department's coverage includes the university officers do not patrol campus regularly because that is the job of the OUPD.

Captain Pyle said although the department is understaffed it still provides a quality of service to the community, which he says is "important to us, but it's still trying."

In a time when school shootings are not uncommon, some students would like to know the officers on duty are well-prepared to react to a potentially harmful situation.

Jodi Mrosko talks about wanting experienced officers

Student Jodi Mrosko admitts, though, that she sometimes takes on the attitude of the invincible college student, thinking, "I'm a college student. That would never happen to me."

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