By Jeremy P. Kelley
Dayton Daily News
KETTERING — At a time when some police departments are laying off patrol officers, Kettering on Tuesday, Sept. 7, administered oaths of office to five full-time officers who will hit the streets this fall or in early 2011.
Two officers will fill existing vacancies, and three others are being hired in anticipation of three January 2011 retirements.
"It's a positive and a negative," Mayor Don Patterson said. "We were down a number of officers (due to retirements), but we had the opportunity to bring our police department back up to the level that we traditionally like to keep."
Police Chief James O'Dell said after the retirements and new hires are processed, Kettering will have 85 sworn officers, two below the maximum authorized staffing level of 87.
John Mahoney, deputy director of the Ohio Municipal League, said many cities have been struggling for the past three or four years to keep public safety staffing at the levels they're accustomed to in light of budget woes.
Dayton police expect to drop below 350 sworn officers in 2011 - the lowest level in decades. Xenia eliminated six police officer jobs after an income tax levy failed in May, and has dueling charter amendments addressing staffing for police and firefighters on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Kettering is bolstered by the fact that city income tax collections through August are narrowly ahead of both 2009 actual and 2010 budget projections this year.
"The budgets are tight everywhere, but you need to achieve a certain level of security for your residents. They expect that, and they deserve that," Patterson said. "We budgeted for these officers last year, and we're finally fulfilling that commitment to put these officers on the street."
O'Dell said all five new hires hold bachelor's degrees from Ohio universities, and four of the five are new police officers. Those four must take 26 weeks of police academy training, meaning they'll be on the streets early in 2011. The fifth officer was hired from Sinclair's police department and will begin work this fall.
O'Dell agreed that being able to hire when some agencies can't may send a good message to Kettering residents, but he said where the hires will be a huge help is with morale within the police department.
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