FAIRVIEW PARK-NORTH OLMSTED

City councils in Fairview Park and North Olmsted will have to approve the measure, but jail and police dispatching services in the former could be moving to the latter by July.

It’s a move the FPPD has been eyeing since a change in shift schedules last year and could help achieve the goal of having more officers on the road at a given time – something that isn’t possible under the current setup.

“With the change in shifts, we needed to be more efficient with our people and give better service to the public,” Fairview Police Chief Paul Shepard said. “One of the ways we can do this is, especially when people want transparency and want us to be accountable, is to make sure our supervisors are on the road as much as possible.”

Previously, Fairview officers worked in three eight-hour shifts per day. In January 2020, the department began a trial run of two 12-hour shifts per day, which was met with a positive response from the employees and made permanent in October. A shift in organization also changed last fall, with the department maintaining three lieutenants and four sergeants instead of the inverse.

Under the new system, each sergeant oversees a five-member platoon of patrol officers, and they all have the same off days, keeping each group together at all times. The lieutenants, directly under the chief, oversee the sergeants. All schedules are rotating.

One issue has lingered throughout, though. Because the department is the last in Cuyahoga County not to have a dedicated dispatch employee, supervising officers – usually sergeants – spend shifts dispatching and working the radio from headquarters.

“There would be a couple days a week, at least three, where we couldn’t get a supervisor on the road, because the supervisors would be sitting at the desk,” Shepard said. “So our officers would go out and they’d do a good job, but it was one where if they had a situation that a supervisor had to handle, they’d have to call the supervisor and that person would then have to make a decision based on the information the officer had from the scene. In a more severe situation, the supervisor would have to wait for someone to come to the station to man the desk so they could go to the scene.”

“Our supervisors would do multiple jobs,” he said. “They would dispatch, answer 911 phone calls, take care of things at the window and also supervise the people on the road.”

Around $481,000 per year in supervisor salary is spent working at the desk, according to Shepard.

As for the city’s jail, holding prisoners in a different location could prove to be a savings for the department and the city in time and money.

In a given year, Shepard estimated that his department makes between 500 and 700 arrests, with most of those individuals being booked, processed and released within hours. About 200 per year wind up spending additional time in the city’s jail, an aging six-cell space built in 1967. The jail is considered a 12-day facility.

Much like with dispatching services, maintaining the jail’s usage is costly in terms of staffing. To upgrade the facility itself would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, not including the $100,000 required to upgrade its 40-year-old dispatch center. Annually, taking care of the 200 prisoners locked up for more than six hours costs around $60,752 in officer salary spent inside the facility rather than on the road.

“Just like how we don’t have dispatch staff, we don’t have corrections staff,” Shepard said. “So our police officers, when we have a prisoner, have to go to feed them, book them and do hourly checks. For every 24 hours we have someone in our custody, eight man hours are used for prisoner care. That means for every one person that spends 24 hours in custody, a police officer is off the road for eight hours.”

To feed a prisoner three meals per day is also time-sensitive for officers. In order to provide meals that meet current standards, the department contracts out to Fairview Hospital, 18101 Lorain Ave. in Cleveland. Three times each day, an officer leaves for around a half-hour to get the food and bring it back to the jail, Shepard said.

Include time used for prisoner checks and even daily showering, and the hours add up.

If the move to North Olmsted’s department, a more modern facility that contains nine cells – six for men and three for women – is approved, Fairview’s jail would become a six-day facility, meaning quick stays and more officers out in the community.

“It became obvious that what was good for 70 years ago needed to be upgraded for today,” Shepard said.

Shepard looked at several communities when exploring the outsourcing of the two services, but North Olmsted, a bordering community that already shares the same radio frequency, was the most attractive option. North Royalton and Strongsville, for example, were possible desintations, but the logistics didn’t add up.

“We looked at other communities that had jails, and their cost was $125 a night for each prisoner,” Shepard said. “More importantly, a place like North Royalton, for example, is a 15-mile (one-way) drive. So we’d have an officer taking one prisoner out of the city for about an hour, hour-and-a-half, which we thought didn’t make much sense. North Olmsted is only 5 miles away...We’d still be bringing people back to our station and later releasing them on bond, but if someone had to stay overnight, we’d take them to North Olmsted.”

To make it all work, Fairview Park would pay North Olmsted $225,000 per year of a three-year agreement, made in monthly installments. Fairview would still be financially liable for any serious medical issues that could come up with one of its prisoners housed at North Olmsted’s facility, a situation that Shepard said doesn’t occur often.

Along with continuing to pay prisoner costs to North Olmsted, Fairview would still be responsible for making sure prisoners receive transportation to court dates, and furnish all required documentation regarding each prisoner to North Olmsted for completion.

As for the NOPD, the increase in calls coming in from Fairview could create a need to hire more dispatchers to run its three consoles, should the cities approve of the measure.

Leadership in each city will continue to discuss the move, with a target start date of July 1.

Contact this reporter at cvoloschuk@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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