One of the core principles of government is to ensure the safety of residents. In fact, Winston Churchill contended: “The responsibility of government for the public safety is absolute, and requires no mandate. It is in fact the prime object for which governments come into existence.”
On Monday, the Sedalia City Council approved its $27 million Fiscal Year 2014 budget, and as the Democrat’s Emily Jarrett reported, included among the expenses is paying into the Sedalia Police Department’s retirement fund and the addition of two officers.
Sedalia Police Chief John DeGonia told us the department has not had a staffing increase since 1974; some basic math reveals that is a decade and a half before the department’s younger officers were even born. Last year, the department answered 37,251 calls for service and racked up scores of hours of overtime.
DeGonia said the new positions would be typical patrol officers who would take reports on disturbances, investigate crime scenes, answer accident calls and more.
“They will make a big difference,” the chief said. “We give excellent service, but two more officers will free up others to do more proactive things instead of us having to be reactionary. ... We will be able to do more building checks and be among the citizens more. Instead of going from call to call, we will be able to connect better with citizens.”
The additional officers also will help reduce overtime, which takes more than a financial toll on the department. DeGonia said officers work 12-hour shifts, but having that stretch to 14 or 15 hours to complete paperwork or other time-sensitive duties is not uncommon.
Paying into the department’s retirement fund also is beneficial for police personnel and for the city as a whole. Not providing that benefit opens Sedalia’s department up to providing entry-level training and on-the-job experience for new officers, only to see that investment move to another department that does fund retirement. And continually having less-experienced officers on the street leads to a shallower base of knowledge of the community; that can cause delays in investigations.
“You can’t put a price on experience,” DeGonia told us.
We applaud the Sedalia City Council for adding the public safety expenditures in the next budget. We see them as investments that will pay off quickly for our community.