Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

May 14, 2012

Goshen police see an overtime bump with concerns at First Fridays

GOSHEN — The increased police presence at recent First Fridays appears to be making a difference, but also comes with a cost.

The amount of total manpower used by Goshen Police Department for First Fridays over the past four months has more than tripled from 32 hours to 104 hours compared to 2011.

As a result, the amount of overtime lodged by officers assigned to patrol First Fridays has risen after the department beefed up its role at the monthly festival following complaints about crowded conditions and trouble with some juveniles.

Goshen Police Department has traditionally provided two officers for the event.

However, the department used six officers in March and had 15 officers on hand for the April and May events.

The hike in manpower coincided in part with concerns about youth-related problems as city council wrangled over two ordinances supported by the mayor, police chief and organizers of First Friday, Downtown Goshen Inc.

City leaders had sought quick approval of ordinances establishing a limited curfew on the nights of First Fridays and one that would prohibit blocking sidewalks.

The curfew was unanimously rejected last month and the City Council chose to take a wait-and-see approach to the sidewalk ordinance after community organizers created an ambassador program in which volunteers greet festival-goers in the downtown business district and keep police aware of possible problems.

Add it up

Goshen Police paid out $153.75 in March for overtime costs associated with First Friday patrols. The total jumped to $678.57 for overtime pay expended in April.

For May’s event, the department estimated the cost was about $900, but part of that included additional patrols for the bike races.

Calculating the total impact on the department, though, isn’t as simple as asking how much in overtime costs the city is accumulating, according to police chief Wade Branson.

Patrolmen who receive overtime for their work are only part of the equation. Some of the duties have been assigned to administrators in the department who do not receive overtime pay.

And reserve officers, who are not paid, have also been working the festival.

Another factor that doesn’t show up on paper is the adjusting of other officer’s schedules to accommodate other shifts.

“In doing so, some officers are then unavailable during their regular schedule, which may cause more shuffling or overtime expense due to a need arising during their regularly scheduled times,” Branson said in a prepared statement addressing overtime expenses.

Traditionally, DGI helps pay the cost of two officers regularly scheduled to provide patrols. However, beginning in June, those two positions will be paid with overtime from the police department because the combined $3,500 provided by DGI and Goshen Downtown Economic Improvement has been exhausted, according to Branson.

Without shifting personnel to cover the event, in April, for example, the cost for that month would have been $2,048, Branson said.

Months ago when the ordinances were first debated, Branson warned that a continued increase in police presence would end up costing more in overtime.

“Though the budgetary concerns may be pressing on the minds of many,” Branson said in his prepared statement, “our officers will continue to work in the capacities for which they are needed.”

‘Less than perfect’

Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman believes the lack of a curfew requires some officers to remain in the festival area after events end at 9 p.m. because young people continue to linger afterward. That, he said, is contributing to overtime costs.

Kauffman said he still supports both ordinances and would like to see council take action on the sidewalk proposal.

During a May 1 council meeting, Kauffman asked council members if there would be any support for a city-wide curfew. The question was met with a clear voice of opposition from several council members and the subject ended quickly.

Police did not issue any warnings during the May 4 First Fridays event. Part of the reason, Branson said, was because streets were closed off and people could legally use the streets for pedestrian traffic.

However, one 13-year-old was arrested following an assault of some kind that required the hospitalization of one youth. And two 12-year-old girls were arrested for public intoxication. Details of the fight were unavailable.

Kauffman described conditions at the most recent event as less than perfect.

He said he likes the idea from City Councilman Jeremy Stutsman to pass the ordinance and review it after a few months. The next City Council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the police & courts building at the corner of Fifth and Jefferson streets.

“I think council needs to pass the ordinance,” Kauffman said, “to have something there for the (circumstances in which people) don’t want to listen.”

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

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