Barge: Police can't afford cutback

"The Oak Harbor Police Department has the biggest general fund budget of any city department, but Police Chief Tony Barge says there's little room for cuts.Barge, speaking to the Oak Harbor City Council at Monday's special budget meeting, listed everything his department does as a core service - including things like the DARE program, the Citizens On Patrol, the Explorer Post and National Night Out. Barge suggested losing the police dog, abandoning bike patrols and getting rid of officers' cellular phones are possibilities.Barge pointed out that the city probably cannot lay off any commissioned officers without bringing down the wrath of the federal government. There are four grant officers in the department, which means 90 percent of their salaries are paid through grants from the federal COPS program. In accepting the grants, Barge said the city made a commitment to employ at least 26 officers for a certain number of years.That leaves only 14 non-commissioned officer positions on the potential chopping block. Yet Barge said the city needs the seven jailers and the jail supervisor to run the jail safely and legally. The only other positions are three secretaries, a receptionist, a records supervisor and an ID tech.Oak Harbor Mayor Patty Cohen said even programs that Barge describes as core services may have to go, including things like DARE, crime prevention presentations in the community, National Night Out, bike patrols, the police reserves program, the Explorer Post, Neutral Zone security, Citizens On Patrol and possibly even SWAT team training. While Barge argued that the city has fewer officers per capita than most cities, Cohen said that's not exactly true. The state average officers per capita is 1.72 officers per 1,000 people and Barge said the city has only about 1.42 officers. Yet Cohen pointed out that his population figures include about 4,000 Navy households living on federal land. When they call 911, Navy security responds, not the Oak Harbor police.Not counting Navy households, the city has 1.76 officers per 1,000 people, which is above the state average. "

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