Opp PD pulls back patrol

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 5, 2003

The Opp City Police will no longer be handling cases which occur outside of city limits due to action taken by the Opp City Council Monday night. The resolution passed unanimously by the council was put forward at the request of Police Chief Bill Shaw who approached the council at the previous meeting.

In a letter to the council, Shaw stated that he had been contacted by the E-911 center in Andalusia and asked to provide a current copy of the new city limits and police jurisdiction. Shaw said that he told them the coverage area was still under discussion.

"At this time," Shaw wrote, " We currently have 24 square miles of our city limits. By adding the current outlying police jurisdiction under the current laws, we will have to start covering 138 square miles. If this coverage becomes our responsibility, we will compromise the safety of our officers and the citizens of this city."

Shaw referred to the police jurisdiction, extending some three miles beyond city limits, as a "logistical nightmare."

In a later interview, Shaw added that his officers would even have to travel through other towns, such as Onycha, Babbie and Horn Hill, to cover the new area.

"We don't have the man power to do it," he said after Monday's meeting. "It's impossible."

Shaw's recommendation to the council included pulling the police jurisdiction back to the city limits, continuing to provide response to emergencies outside of city limits, and responding to and maintaining the scene of an accident or other situation until a county unit could arrive.

The council passed the resolution, number 2003-06,

with Shaw's recommendations included.

Shaw stressed the fact that the police department was still there to serve when and where it was needed.

"We are still First Responders," he said after the meeting. "We will respond to an emergency, we respond to those anyway. The first responder can save that person's life. But if you come home and find someone has backed up a U-Haul and cleaned you out - that's not an emergency."

While the Opp police will still respond to emergency cases in the county, including what was the police jurisdiction, they will only hold the scene until a county or state unit arrives to assume the investigation. The Opp law enforcement officials will not be handling the cases beyond that point, he said.

In the initial letter he wrote to the council, Shaw pointed out that one homicide the city force worked outside of Fleeta cost the city more than $25,000.

"This situation was looked at several years ago and at that time, the City was taking in around $5,900 in revenue in the outlying police jurisdiction," Shaw wrote. "That amount would not cover the cost of hiring one officer, much less covering a homicide investigation or a rash of burglaries."

"There's not a lot going to change," said Shaw in the interview. "Nothing will change other than the fact that the actual cases will be handled by the sheriff's department."

He added that most cities are also pulling back their police jurisdictions and that the underlying reason is funding.

"All it is is a monetary issue," he said.

In other council matters, the council voted unanimously to not approve a zoning change request on Opine Road, based in the recommendation of the planning commission. Mayor Jerry Boothe told the council that more than 50 residents of the Opine area showed up at the planning commission meeting to protest the rezoning, which would allow higher density residences. Boothe said that no one showed up to support the rezoning.

At least 20 of the Opine residents were at the council meeting Monday and they thanked the council for not changing the zoning.

The council also approved the purchased of a new mower to replace the current one, which was, according to Boothe, worn out to the point it was no longer worth repairing. The purchase of the mower, offered at $10,200 by Joe Richburg, is pending on whether or not the offered mower meets city specifications. Other bids were offered from the area and from other cities.

"Personally , I'd like to go with somebody local," said Councilman Gary Hall, adding that it would make later repairs more convenient. Richburg's was the lowest offer from local dealers, according to Boothe.