NILES, Ohio (WYTV) – The police department was the focus of discussion at the Niles City Council meeting Wednesday night, as the mayor discussed removing the minimum number of first responders on duty in the city.
Niles currently requires at least four police officers and six firefighters to be on duty at all times. Mayor Scarnecchia says this is not an effort to take first responders off the streets, but to save on overtime.
Plenty of questions surrounded what this “minimum manning” would mean for the city’s fire and police departments. Scarnecchia told city council it gives chiefs the choice of whether or not to call someone in for overtime if it is not needed.
“One at 5:30 gets sick, then we’d have to call an on officer out, and we’d have to pay him four hours overtime,” he said. “Without it, it would be up to the chief’s discretion.”
Councilman Steve Papalas told both chiefs that if the city eliminated minimum manpower but a first responder was on vacation, both departments could still call in for overtime.
“You’ve got that power invested in you by the state constitution,” Papalas said.
Some Niles residents expressed concerns about dropping minimum manning.
“To say let’s reduce that, four is not even acceptable,” Doug Sollitto said.
A Niles officer said he’s worked shifts where nothing is going on, and other shifts where four officers was not enough.
“I trusted when I voted yes, when I call 911, I’m going to have someone there right away and I’m having my doubts,” Wanda Burns said.
Acting Niles Police Chief Jay Holland says if it’s not the city’s intent to dip below four officers at a time, he’s not sure why they are considering removing the minimum of man power.