Officer moves on, GPD examines how to move forward

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — With the recent departure of an officer from the Gallipolis Police Department, city officials are taking stock of what they have called a “make or break” one-percent income tax vote to come before voters in the fall that will determine the future of the GPD.

According to Gallipolis Police Chief Jeff Boyer and Gallipolis City Manager Gene Greene, the city’s police force is one officer less after that individual left for a better paying position. Neither the chief nor the manager blame him either.

“Police, sadly to say we’ve lost another officer,” said Greene during the last Gallipolis City Commission meeting. “He’s moved onto another job. We’re short one more. We’ve got 10, counting the detective and the police chief. We’re getting pretty thin… We’re working the guys to death and Jeff is wearing out his overtime (budget) and to be honest you can’t blame the police officer because he has his training and a family to feed and if he can make a couple bucks more an hour someplace else, he’s going to go if we can’t afford to pay him. I’ll tell you right up front, if that police levy in the fall doesn’t pass, we’re going to lose more.”

Boyer confirmed there have been roughly 30 overdoses in the city since the beginning of the year with two deaths, after the rest were saved with Narcan dosing. He says his office faces around 100 calls in a month’s time, ranging from domestic violence to drug abuse investigation. That does not include road accidents in town. Boyer said there are times when one officer may be on schedule in town due to workloads and prisoner transports multiple counties over due to a full county jail.

According to Boyer in early 2015, there were at least 12 officers with the department.

“There’s a lot of things we respond to that don’t get reports either,” said Boyer. “There are times when we’re making calls to help out with a disabled vehicle or making well-being checks to maybe help out an elderly person that’s fallen over and wants help getting up but doesn’t want a squad ride.”

One crowd member at the last meeting said she felt there needed to be a stronger presence policing speeders in town. Boyer replied that once the city had more officers to combat the problem, they could address it better.

Boyer said he has three part-time officers at the moment to cover shift differences. However, those individuals also work full-time jobs and one individual is reportedly clocking over 30 hours a week with the office while simultaneously keeping up his “day job.”

This will be the third time the issue has been placed before voters after two prior failures to pass. Commissioners and city officials have cited the need for a tax levy in order to fund the Gallipolis Police Department and safety operations as the city has faced severe budget issues over the last few years. Commissioners decided to drop previous ballot language referencing capital expenses in the hope this would foster public trust in that money gathered from the tax would be spent solely on public safety needs.

Ballot language to be seen in the upcoming election says “Shall the Ordinance providing for a one percent (1%) increase on income for public safety operations … be passed?” The passage of a one-percent tax would make the income tax in Gallipolis two-percent as there is already a one-percent tax in place. The city cannot make use of a sales tax as that avenue is legally only open to the state or county governments.

City officials say any funds collected from the tax will be earmarked in a separate fund which will be used solely for city safety purposes. However, Gallipolis Police Department may need to pull funds from the general fund, separate from the tax fund, to further subsidize police financial needs.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright