Milton officials may seek the help of an international organization to analyze the needs of the town's police department.
Town council stopped short of reaching out to the International Association of Chiefs of Police at its Jan. 7 meeting. Instead, Town Manager Win Abbott will speak with other towns about their experience with the group.
Speaking of funding the police department, Abbott said, “There has been a lot of talk, a lot of anguish over the whole subject [of police] over a period of months and the task given was to find out what it would take to do this [study]. This addresses an outstanding concern in a professional manner.”
The association, founded in 1893, addresses issues confronting law enforcement through advocacy, programs and research. Among the services it provides is a comprehensive study of a municipality's police department. The IACP conducted a complete review of the Ocean View Police Department in 2010, providing the town council with suggestions on how the department could be improved.
Ocean View town officials contacted the association to review the department's staffing. After looking at several factors, including population and crime rates, the consultant recommended the department add one full-time officer.
“We definitely got our money's worth out of this study,” Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin said. “It was done by a very professional gentleman. I think the town as a whole was very satisfied.”
McLaughlin said the consultant spent about three 10- to 12-hour days with the department, going through policies, riding along with officers and analyzing crime data. McLaughlin, who was advocating for an additional officer at the time of the study, said he was told by the consultant that he would remain neutral.
“He made it clear he was conducting an independent study, and his findings were what they were,” McLaughlin said.
The Milton Police Department's staffing and budget have been hot topics during the past two budget years. Councilman Norman Lester said an IACP study of the department would be beneficial.
“We're compared to other towns, but we're not Rehoboth, we're not Milford, we're not Lewes,” he said. “Milton has its own set of requirements and I, for one, think we might want to spend to have a professional organization come in and look at what we're doing. Let's find out once and for all from a group that's qualified.”
Abbott estimated it would cost up to $6,000. An IACP member would travel to Milton to meet with town officials to design a desired outcome. After an objective is determined, Abbott said, the IACP member would extensively interview town officials, the police chief and others before analyzing the information to provide to the town.
Councilwoman Marion Jones said the council and town is so divided on the police department issue that it would be difficult to provide the IACP official with what the town is looking for.
“I think that needs to be defined before we go out and search for a group that will give that data back,” she said. “I say we start with a list of what our issues are and [then ask] what can you do to unravel these issues and give us some answers. Not in reverse.”