There were several misrepresentations in the Friday, May 9, 2003 editorial in the Payson Roundup that I would like to address. I have spent many hours over the past several months on town issues, including water and community development, as well as the police department. I have done this because, as an elected councilmember, I am one of seven that has responsibility and authority for setting policy and approving budgets for the town of Payson.
It has never been my intent to have the current police chief replaced or fired. Rather, I want to see improved working relationships with other law enforcement agencies that operate in northern Gila County. I also want to ensure that policies implemented and funds expended by the police department are consistent with the direction of the town manager and council. Therefore, there needs to be an understanding of the current situation and a debate on what, if any, changes should be made and how those changes might be implemented.
Prior to the recent organizational change, I met several times with the police chief and town manager to discuss my concerns. I met with Gila County elected officials, current and past Payson police officers, and officers from other agencies, to get their perspective on the working relationship among the various law enforcement agencies that cover this area.
Based on these meetings, I concluded we should have an external review of our police department. The review would look at our department's policies and procedures, staffing, training and technology, and compare it to "best practices" that serve as benchmarks for such agencies.
I believe such a review should be viewed by the department as a positive endeavor. It is not an investigation as the editorial stated. A review would give the town manager and council guidance in future funding, staffing levels, and ways to develop better working relationships with other law enforcement agencies. It would make our police department better and ensure service levels meet the town manager's and council's goals and objectives.
The cost for such a review has not been determined because there has not been a decision on what would be covered. A focused review of specific areas conducted by an experienced police review organization might only cost $20,000 to $50,000 and deliver very helpful and beneficial recommendations.
I was invited by the town manager to the Wednesday meeting mentioned in the editorial. I viewed it, as many other meetings I attend as your councilmember, to discuss issues and develop action plans.
I speak only for myself. My efforts are based on my belief that this is an important issue and needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. A policy review should enhance, not diminish, the performance of our dedicated police department.