The Neosho Police Department will soon be a full service department once again.
Neosho Police Chief Dave McCracken announced Tuesday that the department will be bringing back one detective position, with Neosho Officer Rodney Howe set to be promoted to the position this week.
The announcement came at the first of five city council budget work sessions, scheduled to be held weekly through the end of August.
Since the city's financial crisis resulted in significant staffing cuts to the police and fire departments in 2010, the Neosho Police Department has operated without detectives.
Though the announcement came in the first round of budget talks, the detective position was already budgeted for the current year.
McCracken said the addition of a detective means the department can again investigate their own crimes, many of which were being handled by the Newton County Sheriff's Department.
"Right now they investigate all of our serious crimes against a person, like child abuse, rape, those kinds of things," McCracken said. "We try to work the burglaries and that kind of thing, we try to work those by pulling a supervisor from a shift and having them work on that for the week. With the addition of a detective now we will be able to assign those cases, we'll also be able to assign some other cases that we're not being able to follow up on currently."
McCracken said a Newton County detective will also be training Howe for the new position.
"It will just be a matter of time before they can back off and let us become a full service police department again and be able to investigate our own crimes," McCracken said.
McCracken spoke of adding the position in the city's budget work sessions last year, though with the department still working to rebuild its ranks, the detective position had been left open until now.
McCracken said the department would be considered fully staffed at 26 officers, and currently consists of 20, after adding two new positions in the current year's budget.
The department could grow by two more officers in the coming year, according to the draft budget presented to council on Tuesday.
City Manager Troy Royer proposed one new officer position, with a base salary of $34,000, as well as a second position, dependent on if the city receives a federal grant.
One existing officer position is currently 75 percent funded by the Department of Justice's COPS grant, and the city has recently applied for that same grant again.
Royer said if the grant is awarded to fund a second position, the city would look to add two new officers in the coming budget year.
And while the city has budgeted to continue rebuilding the city's police department, they have also planned pay raises for those currently serving.
Page 2 of 2 - The proposed budget includes a $133,555 increase in police department salaries, with the most significant raises set at $4,000.
The raise excludes McCracken, who is budgeted to stay on the same pay level.
If the proposed salary increases are approved, that would raise the department's six lowest paid positions from $31,000 to $35,000.
The department's raises were first discussed in budget talks last year, when McCracken voiced concerns about losing officers to surrounding departments offering more competitive pay.
"We did an across the board salary comparison to other areas," Neosho Mayor Richard Davidson said of last year's budget preparation. "The other city departments were able to be done in one year because they weren't that far off, but because PD was significantly behind other areas the city couldn't afford to do it all in one year."
The proposed raises for the police department would be round two of the increases promised in last year's budget work sessions, Davidson said.
The council is scheduled to meet for their next budget work session at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6 in city hall council chambers, prior to their regularly scheduled council meeting at 7 p.m.
The council must have a balanced budget ready and approved by the beginning of their fiscal year on Oct. 1.
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To read more from Tuesday evening's budget work session, see Thursday's edition of the Neosho Daily News.