Recently appointed Park Hill’s Police Chief Richard McFarland spoke this past week of new policies and changes in the department that will be taking place in the near future.
McFarland, accompanied by officer Summer Bess, addressed the Park Hills-Leadington Chamber of Commerce at the group's monthly luncheon. They both took the podium to discuss changes large and small to the department that have already taken place or will be taking place in the near future.
One of the bigger changes was the passing of a written mutual aid agreement with the cities of Leadington and Desloge.
“In the past we've always backed each other up but there was nothing [on paper] to say that we were okay to do that,” McFarland explained. The written mutual aid agreement allows the three departments to work together within all three jurisdictions when assistance is needed.
Another big accomplishment that has been made is the establishment of a contract with Mineral Area College and the City of Park Hills. The agreement is for the college to provide facilities and training to the law enforcement officers of the city. McFarland explained the college is going to be offering a wide range of training classes that will save the department money. In the past, the department has had to send officers to other areas of the state to types of training that will now be offered locally.
“I think training in law enforcement is one of the most important things. It helps us better serve the victims of crimes and better serve our citizens,” said McFarland.
Next the chief said the department has hired a police clerk that will handle the day-to-day clerical and office duties of the department. The move will allow the department office to be open during regular business hours as well as free up a patrol officer who had previously been tasked with the duties of the clerk position. The police department is currently down two officers.
Policing procedures have recently changed as well. The chief said officers working at night have been checking doors of local businesses and schools. The officers are doing this randomly right now, but what they've been noticing is some open doors. The new police clerk will be contacting these businesses letting them know that they found their buildings unsecured at night.
The department would like to get a list of contact information for business owners so that in the event they do find unsecured buildings they can call the business owners or managers and have them come take care of the situation.
McFarland also talked about some of the promotions within the department that will be made moving forward.
Officer Summer Bess will be promoted to the rank of sergeant. Currently Bess is working to incorporate some of the policies of other area departments and implement them into the Park Hills Police Department’s policies. She's also working on the development of an Emergency Operations Plan so that in the event of disasters such as a tornado the department will have a clear direction for handling the situation.
After Bess completes these projects she will be taking over as head of the detective bureau.
Also, Corporal Ellie Tucker will be promoted to the Lieutenant position.
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Lt. Doug Bowles has taken over duties as a Student Resource Officer (SRO) the for Central School District alongside SRO Andrew Rieger. Bess had previously served in the SRO capacity.
These promotions will take effect on Monday.
After McFarland finished giving his updates he turned the podium over to Bess who explained a few other changes that have been made within the department.
Measures that will be taken to improve officer safety include the purchase of new bulletproof vests for all the officers. As she explained, the current vests that the officers wear are approaching their expiration date. They are also Level Two vest, which will stop rounds fired from small firearms but don't adequately protect against larger caliber weapons.
The department is looking at upgrading to Level Three vests which will provide better protection and include trauma plates. In getting these new vests, Bess explained, the department is going to be looking into grants to help cover the cost as they are expensive, costing approximately $1,000 apiece.
Bess also said that they are going to be looking at getting Tasers for the officers.
“Right now we're the only department in the area that doesn't currently have Tasers,” she explained.
The department is also hoping to purchase body cameras to be worn by officers.
“We’re looking at body cameras because it keeps everyone honest. It helps protect us and helps protect the public,” Bess explained. “The cameras are an advantage to the officers. They provide situational awareness, improve community relations and accountability, and help provide evidence for reports.”
The addition of dash cameras in the patrol cars was also mentioned. Some patrrol cars have had cameras but when the department purchased new patrol cars the cameras were never reinstalled.
Bess concluded, mentioning some of the services the department provide such as Active Shooter training and advising businesses, schools, and churches with safety training and security evaluations of their facilities.
Anyone interested in any of these services can contact the department and set up a date and time for the training.