Miamisburg plans to hire four additional patrol officers this year, bringing its number of sworn personnel in the police department to 39. STAFF PHOTO

Miamisburg beefing up police staffing to level not reached in years

Miamisburg has added four patrol officers from last year’s 35 authorized level and is filling some openings created by retirements, said Miamisburg Assistant City Manager Emily Christian.

The city’s police department hasn’t reached a staffing level of 39 sworn officers, City Manager Keith Johnson estimated, since 2009. Miamisburg is also seeking federal funds to boost those numbers further.

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The city has a job posting on its website, but is already well on its way in the screening process and has extended five conditional offers, Christian said.

“We’re hoping we make the hire for those five and just be down to three,” she said, “….We also have additional prospects as far as this interview process that aren’t just as far along. Before long, we should have all of those vacancies filled.”

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A key factor in the additional hirings, city officials said, is cutting the overtime pay Miamisburg has been relying on the past few years to ensure all patrol shifts are staffed.

“There is not a shift that we don’t have cops on the street,” Johnson told city council members recently. “We are not down officers on the street.”

In 2015 and 2016, the city paid in the “$400,000-range” each year for overtime in the department, with that amount dropping about $20,000 this year, Christian said.

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“If everything works out” with the city’s screening process, it should have all hires done by October or November, she said.

The hirings come at a time when Miamisburg’s reported opioid overdoses and deaths are dramatically increasing – just as they throughout Montgomery County.

Twenty people died in Miamisburg of drug overdoses through June, city records show. The number of overdose deaths in the city this year is on pace to surpass the number of deaths for the previous three years combined.

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From 2014-16, Miamisburg recorded 37 drug overdose deaths, 16 of which happened last year, records show.

But the adding patrol officers this year has “absolutely nothing” to do with the rising drug overdose figures, Johnson said.

“We’re not bringing more officers on to get more boots on the street like an Army patrol to go deal with drug use,” he said. “The officers we’re hiring are filling the same roles they were before.”

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A significant issue with drug sales, Johnson said, is that they commonly don’t occur in plain sight.

“They’re not buying them on the street,” he said, noting later, “they’re doing this stuff on Facebook, Twitter. They may be buying these drugs” by meeting at a restaurant.

“And they just happen to be bringing them back into a neighborhood to use them in a house,” Johnson added. “ Having more officers on the street doesn’t change that.”

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The additional hires, Christian said, stem from seeking to increase staffing levels, which have fallen off since the Great Recession.

Meanwhile, the city is seeking to add even more officers.

The police department is applying for a federal grant, which – if approved – will cover up to 75 percent of the salary and benefits, but would not exceed up to $125,000.

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The cost of hiring two entry level officers for three years is $567,454 and the grant would cover $250,000, about 45 percent of the costs, records show.

The city’s share would be the remaining 56 percent, of $317,454, according to city records.

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