After the city's financial crisis forced drastic cuts to the Neosho Police Force in 2010, the department is building back, and is now on the road to being fully staffed once again.
The Neosho Police Department is currently hiring for two patrol positions, which would bring the number of officers up to 20, and allow for the department to bring back one detective position, said police chief David McCracken.
"At one point we were down to 11," McCracken said. "We're working our way back."
In 2008, prior to any department reductions, McCracken said 26 officers were on the force.
He said once the cuts were implemented, the department discontinued all ranks other than police chief, sergeant and patrol officer.
The discontinued positions included captain, corporals, detectives, and detective sergeant.
"We're starting to look at putting a detective back into the system," he said.
He said the department is budgeted for 20 officers this fiscal year. While two officers were recently hired, the department still has two positions left to fill, one that was being held open and one from a recent resignation.
He said the current plan is to fill the two open positions, train the new officers and promote one patrolman to a detective position, once the new officers have completed training.
McCracken said the department employed two detectives in 2008. Since the cuts, handling investigations has become an added responsibility for sergeants and patrol officers.
The chief said the Newton County Sheriff's Department has also stepped in to help with investigative work.
"The sergeants and the patrol officers have been working cases in between radio calls as best we can, it's certainly not the best situation," McCracken said. "And, the sheriff's department has been very helpful with us and have worked all of our child abuse cases for us and some of the major other crimes that we just couldn't do justice with the staff that we have."
McCracken said the return of a department detective will change that, allowing the Neosho Police Department to investigate its own cases, and have a full service police department once again.
When the open patrol positions are filled, the department will have enough officers to bring each shift to four, including three patrolmen and one supervisor.
"We definitely are making progress," McCracken said. "We can all kind of feel a little bit better about officer safety and citizen safety."
He said he hopes to see the department continue to grow, though that will have to be done in stages.
"We're hoping to increase our staff as well as get a second detective in the coming budget years, as revenues allow," McCracken said.
As the department has grown, the number of calls officers have responded to have also increased, based on an annual report presented to the Neosho City Council on Tuesday evening.
Page 2 of 2 - Overall crime reported to police was 13 percent higher in 2012 than the previous year, while officers responded to a total of 6,801.86 crimes against persons and property crimes, and 16,224 calls for service.
The most common criminal offense reported was larceny theft, with a total of 404 cases for the year.
Assault crimes were the second most common, as Neosho police responded to 173 reported cases.
"The police department has made the commitment that we would continue to provide the same quality service as we did with a full staff," McCracken wrote in the report. "While we may not be able to do the quantity of work the quality will be the very best possible."
McCracken also noted in the year end report that the Neosho Police Department has been successful in obtaining several grants in the past year.
The department received a total of $198,557 in grant funding in 2012.
The grants included an annual Local Law Enforcement Block grant, at $9,997, which assisted with patrol safety equipment costs, the MDT Project 35 grant, for $20,000, which purchased four new in-car laptops to replace outdated units and the Mo Statewide Communications Assistance Program grant, at $67,862, which provided new radios for the department to meet the required switch to narrowband capability.
Additional grants included the Department of Justice's Bullet-proof Vest Partnership grant, at $959, which offsets the cost of officers' protective vests, a DWI enforcement grant, awarded by the Missouri Department of Highway Safety, for $5,000, which provides overtime funds for extra patrols watching for impaired or intoxicated drivers, and the Community Oriented Policing grant, also from the Department of Justice, which awarded $94,739 to cover an officer's salary and benefits for a three-year period, with a 25 percent match from the city.
"With council support we've been able to rebuild to generate a better service for our citizens," McCracken said.