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More feet on the beat

Another Red Wing police officer will join the team this summer.

The Red Wing City Council voted Monday to approve hiring a police officer to start July 1.

The position was discussed last year, but came too late to be incorporated into the budgeting process, council members said. They decided to look at finances later into 2014 and see if the funding was feasible to add an officer halfway through the year.

Now, the time is right, they said Monday.

The city’s police officer staff was set at 29 in the past, but due to the recession three spots went unfilled when openings came up, Police Chief Roger Pohlman noted. In 2013, the council approved hiring one officer, bringing the total to 27, and the position approved Monday will bring it to 28.

Pohlman gave examples Monday as to why the officer is needed.

One shift currently only has a sergeant and two officers assigned to it, he said, so if someone calls in sick, for example, the sergeant has to step in on calls such as domestic issues. That removes the supervisory role from the scene because everyone is directly involved, he noted.

He also said calls for service reached more than 15,000 last year, which averaged out to about 1.77 calls per hour. That can lead to a backlog, and officer fatigue.

Officers are stepping up drug enforcement, Pohlman said, and are responding to other calls related to drug use, such as assault, that can be more dangerous.

“I think the statistics … do kind of point out the need,” Pohlman said.

Savings due to retirements and promotions can cover the cost for the 2014 budget, Pohlman said. In the future, the cost to retain the officer — including salary, benefits, retirement — would be just more than $85,000, or equal to about a 0.61 percent levy increase, Pohlman said.

“I think it’s a good deal,” Council member Dean Hove said, as long as members keep in mind the cost in future years for the position.

Council member Peggy Rehder said she has seen more crime issues recently and would “be relieved to know, even if it’s only one, that we have one additional officer on the street.”

She said she is also concerned about the fatigue issue for officers.

“I think this has been a long time coming past due,” Council member Mike Schultz said of allowing the position to be filled.

Pohlman said he’s planning to hire someone who would start July 1. Training takes about four months.

The council approved the position 6-0. Council President Lisa Bayley was absent from Monday’s meeting.

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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