To meet the demands of its growing population, Mount Prospect is discussing plans to bolster a police force still operating at levels more than a decade ago.
Village board members are considering a proposal that would add a community relations officer and two other officers to the police department, at a cost of more than $500,000, which includes salary, benefits, dues retirement and health insurance.
The Community Relations Officer would handle social media management, community outreach programs, community policing and the Citizens Policing Academy, as well as being present at village sponsored events . The total cost of the position in the first year would be $176,831, officials said.
The first year cost of adding the other two additional sworn officers is $354,000.
The village’s financial manager, Amit Thakkar, said the new officers could save the department $60,000 to $75,000 in overtime.
The village will apply for a community-oriented policing grant through the U.S. Department of Justice that would provide $125,000 per officer over a three-year period.
Thakkar said the size of the village police force has shrunk since cuts during the Great Recession. In 2006, the village had 92 sworn police officers. This figure stands at 83 today. Mount Prospect has 1.46 officers per 1,000 residents, which is less than many comparable communities.
Village administrators have so far expressed support for the proposal.
“I don’t think there’s any question that we need more police,” said Administrator Richard Rogers.
Administrator John Matuszak asked how the community relations officer’s responsibilities would differ from those of Officer Greg Sill, the department’s public information officer.
Chief Mike Eterno said the department sees the new community relations officer position as a parallel role. Among the officer’s duties would be reviving a police scout position to mentor young people in the community who may have an interest in law enforcement.
Patrollers will remain the bread and butter of the force, Eterno added.
“We don’t have as many detectives as we had in the past. We don’t have a traffic unit, as we had in the past,” he said. “Unfortunately officers are juggling a lot of hats right now.”