The Owen-Withee Police Committee held the first of two O-W Police Referendum listening sessions on Tuesday, March 16, at the Owen-Withee High School. This citizen outreach meetings were planned to answer questions or concerns about the upcoming O-W Police Referendum question that will be on the April 6th ballot. Attendance was not large at this first meeting, most attendees those serving the municipalities of Owen and Withee.
OWPD Chief Ibarra, Officer Juzwiak and Officer Haugstad spoke to those in attendance about the importance of adding hours to create a 3rd full-time officer. They also were happy to answer any questions about the upcoming referendum and why Owen-Withee needs to fund more police hours. Chief Ibarra also addressed questions or comments received from surveys that were collected seen below:
How much will it cost?
The referendum would cost the Owen residents approximately $48.94 per $100,000 of property value and Withee residents approximately $51.06 per $100,000 of their property value.
We already have three full-time police officers, why do we need more?
The OWPD has two full-time officers, not three. In the past Owen Police Department had three full-time officers. After Owen and Withee combined to make the current police department there has only been two full-time officers. The hours would be added to the third part-time officer, currently Jacob Haugstad.
We don’t need another officer; we have county coverage when the Owen-Withee Police Department is not available.
The Clark County Sheriff’s Office does respond when the OWPD is not available. The Clark County Sheriff’s office takes a lot of calls for service though and may not be available or in the area when a call comes in from O-W. Also, the Sheriff’s Department cannot enforce O-W ordinances, does not open locked vehicles and does not respond to unintentional gas drive offs.
There are not enough calls to support another officer.
There were 738 calls of service in 2019 and 930 in 2020. Call of service also do not dictate how much time is spent working on patrolling, case work and administrative duties. There are some calls that require several hours, days or even weeks to work on. A third full-time officer will also give us a better opportunity to be pro-active instead of reactive.
I do not see any officers out patrolling or out on the weekend.
The Owen-Withee Police Department patrols Owen and Withee as much as possible, but with less officers comes less time for patrol. If the referendum passes, we will be able to expand patrol times and have more coverage during the weekdays and weekends. It was also added that many times when the officers are on patrol it is late night or early morning, so they are not as visible.
We don’t need a third full-time officer, just keep part-time officers.
Part-time officers don’t stay very long. They usually are looking to get experience and leave for a full-time position or already have a full-time job and have limited hours to offer. Hiring part-time officers can be expensive and time consuming. On average to hire, train and keep law enforcement certification for a part-time officer cost $32,046.10.
$2,729.58 – minimum of two weeks of employee wages for job posting, interviewing candidates and background checks.
$70 – drug test before employment
$137.20 – Medical/Physical Screening
$440 – Psychological Testing
$200 – Uniform allowance
$28,037.32 – Wages and benefits for the full-time officer and part-time officer during the 16-week training program.
$432 – Wage for part-time officer needed to do state mandated 24 hours of training to keep law enforcement certification, does not include cost of trainings.
Is this position for the K-9 officer?
This is not for the K-9 position. But there is a need for a K-9 in these communities. Since 2019 the OWPD has been involved in at least six search warrants that were related to drug activities. Drugs correlate with other crimes such as child abuse, thefts, burglaries and violent crimes. A K-9 is a deterrent for drugs being brought into town.
Population of this size, you don’t need three cops.
In Clark County there are three other towns with the relative same population as O-W, below is a break down of population, call volume and officers employed:
Thorp – population 1597 – 900 calls – 3 full-time officers
Loyal – population 1231 – less than 930 calls – 3 full-time officers/2 part-time officers
Greenwood – population 924 – 495 calls – 3 full-time officers
O-W – population 1400 – 930 calls – 2 full-time officer/2 part-time officers
What were the increased calls generally about? Were they related to COVID-19? Are they expected to decrease once COVID has subsided?
The increased calls were not COVID-19 related. There were a few calls about the Stay-At-Home order. During peak times of COVID-19 last year we made less traffic stops and face to face contacts to limit exposure to our employees, so the calls of service numbers could have been potentially more.
The drug problem in this area is getting worse. How will increasing police presence curb this problem if there doesn’t seem to be any teeth in cracking down on offenders?
The OWPD has been involved in several drug search warrants in O-W. Adding another full-time officer will help us crack down on the drug problem. Drug cases take time to investigate and build up enough evidence to get a search warrant. Another full-time officer and K-9 will help expedite those drug investigations.
The next listening session will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 27 at the Owen-Withee High School. The OW PD is happy to answer any questions or concerns the community may have and welcome all to this next meeting.
The Sentinel & Rural News covers the news and events of Clark County and southern Taylor County, as well as regional news that affects those areas.