Crestwood board votes 7-1 to table police-code revisions

By BURKE WASSON

In an effort to reflect current practices, Crestwood officials have worked to revise the city’s police code.

But due to aldermen’s concerns about inconsistencies and potentially vague sections of the proposals, the Board of Aldermen last week tabled discussion of those proposed revisions to a future meeting. The board voted 7-1 at its May 12 meeting to table the proposed police-code revisions with Ward 2 Alderman Chris Pickel opposed.

The Police Board has reviewed Chapter 20 of the Crestwood Municipal Code and made many recommendations to update the section on the Police Department that originally was written in 1965.

The recommended revisions include but are not limited to: modifying the terms of Police Board members to run concurrently with the mayor’s term, allowing the Police Board aldermanic representative to designate an alternative representative to attend meetings, modifying the code to read that the Police Board will meet regularly instead of monthly, stipulating that Police Department and police chief compensation shall be provided for within the city’s budget instead of a specific ordinance or resolution and modifying the police chief’s requirement to report to the Police Board and Board of Aldermen on a monthly basis to instead report “as requested.”

A lengthy discussion on these proposed changes began when Ward 3 Alderman Paul Duchild cited a number of concerns with the recommendations.

“… The designee information as proposed is a little bit vague to me,” he said. “… The current code states that the designee can be an aldermanic representative … However, the proposed language does not say that. It says his designee, which to me is pretty vague in that the aldermanic representative could appoint anybody — anybody in the city, anybody in their family …

“I think the intent, Alderman Duchild, is the current practice of aldermen was that if an aldermanic representative can’t make a meeting, that alderman gets another alderman,” City Administrator Jim Eckrich said. “But by the current code, the alderman couldn’t do that. The alderman should have contacted the mayor and the mayor could have got that representative. The language could be changed here. But to go back to the previous language … that’s not the practice that’s currently followed …”

“… We can clarify that the aldermanic representative or his designee has to be an alderman,” City Attorney Rob Golterman said. “We can do that …”

“Moving onto Section 20-1(c), this section has been modified to read that the Police Board will meet regularly instead of monthly,” Duchild said. “For me, it’s a wording issue. Why would we want to take away monthly or be it bimonthly or every six months to go with something less or more vague by saying regularly? The definition of regularly, again, is pretty vague. Does that mean every six months? What does that mean? I don’t have an issue with the timing, per se. It’s, again, the vagueness.”

“The intent there, Alderman Duchild, is that if the code says that the Police Board shall meet monthly, and in December the Police Board decided not to meet, then they violated the code,” Eckrich said. “What we’re trying to do is get language that makes sense … If you want to change that to a minimum quarterly or a minimum bimonthly, I think I wouldn’t have any objections to that …”

“… Moving onto Section 20-2, this section indicates that the compensation of the police chief and all Police Department personnel shall be provided for within the city’s budget instead of a specific ordinance or resolution,” Duchild said. “…. It seemed to me this reduces the power of the Board of Aldermen and the flexibility the board would have when it came to changes in budget … I’ll give you an example, which I believe last year we had a similar example happen to the city when there was somebody who retired from the department. There was extra money that was sort of adjusted or reallocated. Some was meant for savings.

“If that happened this year, I know we have a couple proposed attrition positions on the police force already … If that were to happen this year, who says the chief can’t reallocate those funds before the next budget comes around? At that point, it’s really too late for the board to do something. The board would have to actually enforce cuts. If we enforce cuts in the budget, that would sort of restrict or put the board in an awkward position when all along the proposal was to save the city some money through attrition of a couple police officers. So, I just want to make that clear to the board that we would lose some power as a board to help with flexibility of the budget. And I would appreciate an enlightening on some intent of this change.”

“I can certainly do that,” Eckrich said. “I’ve been with the city 10 years. The compensation of the chief of police has never been done by separate ordinance or resolution. The police chief can’t reallocate funds. Only the city administrator can do that. Our intent with this revision of the code as with all of these is to make the code say what we do. If the board wants to, for some reason, have an ordinance or resolution which specifically compensates the chief of police — and that isn’t done in any other department — the board is completely within its prerogative to do that.

“I think when this was written … the city was a fourth-class city at the time and compensation of employees was treated in a different manner. That’s not the way it is with the current budget. Our intent is merely to have the code, the language in the code, mimic the way this is treated.”

Eckrich later emphasized that he would not reallocate unused budget money for raises. Instead, he would bring such a proposal to the board.

“Regarding any kind of pay raises, those have to be signed first by the department head, then by me and then by the Finance Officer (Douglas Brewer),” Eckrich said. “I’m not going to sign it unless it’s in the budget. As I have said many times, when we’re doing personnel restructurings, the board will consider those just like they did with the most recent ones. Douglas isn’t going to sign off on a PAF (personnel-action form) unless it’s in the budget. The (Police) Chief (Michael Paillou) cannot do those himself.”

After Duchild also proposed the board vote on these code revisions separately rather than in one vote, Ward 4 Alderman Debbie Beezley suggested aldermen “redline” the proposed revisions and discuss them at a future meeting.

“Maybe, it would be a good idea for each of us to provide our thoughts on this, redline it and bring it back as a final document so we have something that we know what everybody is thinking in one piece,” Beezley said. “I think it could take probably forever if we all sat here and gave our nuances of what we wanted to do.”