By Debbie Rogers
WALBRIDGE — It’s the little police department that could.
The Walbridge Police Department continues to struggle with staffing, but Police Chief Kenneth Campbell said the department will survive and eventually thrive.
Campbell said that the Walbridge Police Department is the only full-time one north of Ohio 582 in Wood County.
“Right now, everybody is looking for officers and we’re always going to be on the short side of it,” he said after last week’s council meeting.
It’s a revolving door at Walbridge, as young officers are hired, then lured to bigger departments with better pay, Campbell said.
Young officers are also looking for a big-city experience with more action.
“That’s just not us,” he said.
Ideally, the department needs six full-time officers and two or three part-time officers. Currently, the department has five full-time officers, including Campbell who does patrol in addition to administrative tasks, and one-part-time officer.
Walbridge will continue to rely on auxiliary officers, he said. There are two with the village right now, Campbell said.
An auxiliary officer typically does not have road experience. On their own time, auxiliary officers join full-time and part-time officers on patrol to get experience. Once they put in hours on patrol, they can be put on the payroll, Campbell said.
He doesn’t see the village police department ceasing to exist anytime soon.
“The people of this village want their own police department,” he said. “The people around here really like the officers.”
At the Aug. 2 meeting, council hired Phillip Sommers as a full-time officer. He is a a former trooper with the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Council also appointed Tyler Coates an auxiliary officer.
They will replace three officers who are leaving the department.
Part-time Officer Nicholas Emch is leaving to pursue an opportunity with another department.
Full-time Officer Rachel Hamilton is leaving for an opportunity with another department.
Part-time Officer Chuck Broshious has accepted a position with North Baltimore.
All officers leaving are in good standing and have served the village well, Mayor Ed Kolanko said in his report to council.
Also, James Waltmire and David Bowman will not be joining the department; they were recently approved by council as hires. Waltmire decided that he did not have available time and Bowman requires an Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy refresher course and will not be able to serve until after that is completed, Kolanko said.
“There is a definite need in the department to fill those spots,” Kolanko said. “(Due to) a couple of officers that we did hire, not coming on for a couple different reasons.
“Also, a couple of our full-time and part-time staff are moving on,” he said.
Campbell said that Sommers will be a good fit for the department.
“I think he’s going to come up quick. He’s got some experience under his belt,” he said. “He’ll be here for a little while.”
Council also approved promoting part-time officer Tom Roberts to deputy chief. Campbell said he is experienced, and recently retired from the jail system.
“We need somebody in that second-in-command role,” Kolanko said.
“He’s willing to come out of retirement and go full time, and be the supervisor that I desperately need,” Campbell said.
In other police business at the meeting, Kolanko admonished Councilman Larry Boday for contacting him about police matters in the evening.
Kolanko said he recently received text messages from Boday and his wife after hours.
“I don’t deserve that,” he said, telling Boday to call the non-emergency police number.
Boday said Kolanko was not being timely in responding to citizens’ complaints and his.
Boday also said that “drunks” had been sent to his home to harass him.