Concerns over police staffing and use of police officers at UPMC were discussed at Jamestown City Council‘s work session Monday night.
Lieutenant Sam Piazza, speaking at privilege of the floor, said that 65 officers is full staffing for the department and right now they only have 56, “We’re currently in need of four officers to be hired, to be compliant with the police impact staffing award that is agreed between the police union and the city. The staffing levels include police officers, detectives, supervisors, two captains, and the Chief’s actually included in the staffing criteria.”
Piazza said a military member on leave and a School Resource Officer count in that current staffing even though they’re either not active or available for use in road patrols. He added two officers are assigned light duty due to illness or injury as well.
Piazza said the case load is overwhelming in the department and is contributing to retention and recruitment issues, “This is not just a problem in the City of Jamestown. This is a problem all across the country. You see it on the news, you see it everywhere else. We’ve talked about it at City Council meetings. We’ve talked about it in private meetings, in negotiations. It’s here, gentleman. It’s here.”
Council member at large Kim Ecklund requested that details be provided to council regarding the number of police calls and arrests.
Council member at large Jeff Russell brought up a concern following the recent serious injury of a Jamestown Police Officer by a patient at UMPC about what happens when officers respond to the hospital. He said due to liability concerns, former Police Chief Harry Snellings had ended the practice about five years ago where officers would help physically restrain patients at the hospital so that they could be chemically medicated, “Yet I don’t agree with the practice of the Police Department being called down to the ER and asked to physically restrain a patient so that a chemical restraint can take place. And if that is taking place now, or it’s happening again, then I encourage the Chief, I encourage your Command Staff, to meet with the hospital, and refuse to do that anymore.”
Police Chief Tim Jackson confirmed that Officers are helping assist, if needed while responding to the call, with restraining patients so they can be medicated. Both Council members Russell and Marie Carrubba expressed concern over why the security team hired by UPMC wasn’t being used for these practices.
Council President Tony Dolce ended the discussion recommending that due to contractual and possibly confidentiality issues that City Administration and UPMC discuss the policy concerns.