07/21/2007

Standoffs tax police resources in Mo.

Life-threatening calls get priority; others put on hold.

By Ryan Slight
Springfield News-Leader

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A Springfield canine officer didn't expect to handle a domestic assault call Wednesday morning.

The officer had been prepared to assist at an early standoff at 2337 N. Kellett Ave., but no one else was available to respond to the assault.

"In that particular instance, we had to kind of rob Peter to pay Paul, so to speak. We kind of have to make that judgment call," said Officer Grant Story, Springfield police spokesman.

Incidents like this week's lengthy north Springfield standoff require numerous officers and stretch police resources, forcing some service calls to go unanswered.

Police will prioritize calls, and those that aren't life-threatening, involving assault or injury, or property damage in progress may get delayed, Story said.

"So that's kind of a cost to the city, and in the end, to the taxpayer," he said.

About 15 police vehicles were observed at Wednesday's standoff. Police declined to detail how many officers worked the Wednesday standoff.

It lasted about four hours.

The incident occurred after police arrived at 4:30 a.m. outside the residence to find a man with multiple stab wounds.

When police approached a suspect inside the house, he shut the door and refused to cooperate. The suspect, who also sustained injuries, and four others inside the house left peacefully hours later.

No one had been charged as of late Thursday afternoon. A standoff's exact cost to the city and taxpayer is unclear.

City spokesperson Louise Whall said Springfield does not track the expense of individual standoffs.

There are three main costs a standoff may incur, including officer overtime pay and specialized items such as tear gas, Whall said. If officers had to break a window or cause other damage to a rental property, the city may also have to reimburse a landlord, she said.

In addition to city expenses, Story noted there are unknown community costs as neighborhood residents are temporarily unable to access an area.

Police staffing during early morning hours could range from 30 to 10 officers, Story said.

A standoff may feature 20 to 30 officers, Story said. Some of those may be called in to work from home.

Some officers will work the standoff while others control traffic and secure a perimeter, Story said.

Standoffs usually feature Special Response Team members and their equipment, a negotiator, and a public information officer to address media.

Each officer handling a standoff perimeter is one fewer officer to enforce traffic elsewhere in Springfield or to do other police chores, Story said.

Early morning hours are common for commercial burglaries, and officers drive by strip malls and businesses watching for crime, the officer said.

Police computerized crime reports showed 10 reports, including three assaults, were generated from the Kellett address in the past year.

The News-Leader requested the reports from the police department, but they were not immediately available Thursday.

Story said it is common for an officer to know an address he responded to multiple times.

Just responding to a disturbance can take an officer 45 minutes, Story said. An assault call could take two to three hours, he said.

"If there's five assaults (at a location), you could easily be looking at 15 hours of personnel time," Story said. "It can add up, and it does add up."

Copyright 2007 News Leader

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