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Visible police please council

February 01, 1998|By JULIE E. GREENE

Visible police please council

Hagerstown officials said this week they think Police Chief Dale Jones is doing a good job, but some were concerned with the time it took to follow up on their requests.

In recent months, the mayor and council have told the chief they wanted police officers visible downtown.

Almost two weeks ago Councilman Lewis C. Metzner was livid because he heard there were still nights a police officer wasn't at the front desk at police headquarters.

But those issues seem to have been resolved in the past two weeks, Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said.

Bruchey said he had gotten positive reaction from downtown merchants and residents who had seen officers patrolling downtown.

Councilman J. Wallace McClure said the day after Jones met with the council about downtown policing on Jan. 13, he saw an officer walking downtown.

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Metzner too said he was satisfied to learn there will be an officer in the lobby of police headquarters until 3 a.m.

He said he had grown "enormously frustrated at the lack of follow-up."

Someone who runs to police headquarters at night in need of immediate assistance shouldn't be faced with having to ring a phone in the entrance way so a dispatcher will call a patrol car to headquarters, Metzner said.

Jones said, to his knowledge, he has a good working relationship with the mayor and council. He had no further comment.

Councilwoman Susan Saum-Wicklein had no comment on the issue.

Councilman William M. Breichner said he too was frustrated with the time it took to get someone in the lobby and downtown, but understands the chief must determine day-to-day priorities.

"I think the chief is doing just about as good a job as you could expect anyone to do under the conditions," Breichner said.

The chief has to walk a tightrope between what elected officials want politically and what he has to do to provide law enforcement, Breichner said.

When a shooting occurs, the council doesn't have the expertise to tell Jones what he should be doing, Breichner said.

"The staffing is his responsibility and I in no way want to interfere or tell him how to do that," Breichner said.

As for how quickly or slowly the chief responded to the council's requests, Breichner said he won't blame the chief.

"I place the blame at the feet of the political system," he said. The council could have voiced their preferences more strongly, he said.

Councilman Alfred W. Boyer said his frustrations were with the perception problems that downtown is unsafe and there wasn't enough police coverage.

"I know that protecting the City of Hagerstown is not an easy job," Boyer said. "There's a lot of money being spent on police protection. People expect a lot and it's a very difficult job."

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