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franklin county times

Red Bay PD questions councilman's figures

By Staff
Melissa Cason
RED BAY-A Red Bay City Council member said during Monday's regular meeting that the police department spent nearly $30,000 in training expenses in 2007.
Councilman Bobby Nelson said based on the number of hours of officer training, the department spent between $27,000 and $30,000 for training last year.
He said that number comes if you take into consideration the officer's pay for the training, causing the department to pay overtime and the cost to have their shifts covered at the department while they are in training.
Both Mayor Jeff Reid and Police Chief Pat Creel said that number is totally inaccurate and the department stayed within budget as approved by the city council in the spring of 2007.
Nelson declined to comment Thursday afternoon.
Creel said the department completed 779 hours of training last year. He said that number includes all training for the department, which includes dispatchers, officers, investigators and the chief and his assistant.
"Our officers are paid for their travel time and time spent in the class," Creel said. "Just because the officer is at training doesn't mean he or she is being paid overtime."
Creel said officers often attending training on days they would normally work anyway. He said another officer does have to work the shift the officer missed because of training because the department is short-staffed.
"I fill in for officers when needed," Creel said. "When Eddy [Chandler] or Jana [Jackson] are at training, I usually fill in to avoid having to pay another officer for that shift."
Creel said the department was budgeted $8,000 for the officers and $1,800 for him. He said the money budgeted was to be used for meals, lodging and fuel for the travel.
He said his department spent $4,901.57 for training and travel in 2007.
Sgt. Scottie Belue said the department takes advantage of free or very low cost training in order to keep the cost down for the city.
"Most of our training is free, but if we do have to pay, we try to get the most bang for our buck by having officers become certified instructors whenever possible," Belue said.
He added that without the instructor certification the officer couldn't certify other officers. In those cases, the officers needing training and certification go to classes.
Creel said the council voted to give him an overtime allowance for the officers that are separate from the training budget.
"These are two separate line items in our budget," he said. "We are within the guidelines of our overtime budget for the year."
The department logged 2,237 overtime hours in 2007, which totals $44,718.37 for the year.
Creel said the overtime logged is not due to officer training but a direct result of providing around the clock police protection with a short staff.
In 2007, the department had eight officers counting Creel and part-time officers. Today, the department has fewer officers which causes more officers to get more overtime.
According to calculations, each officer would have had to have been paid $28.24 per hour in order to have spent $27,000 in training, and would have made $32.21 per hour in order to spend $30,000 in training.
Creel said this is not the case.
He said the 779 hours of training includes 138 of his training hours and he did not receive any more pay for attending the training sessions because he is on salary.