A joint committee of Dover City Council last week recommended increasing the size of the city’s police force and creating a special discretionary fund the police chief can use to pay officers additional overtime wages as he deems necessary.


A joint committee of Dover City Council last week recommended increasing the size of the city’s police force and creating a special discretionary fund the police chief can use to pay officers additional overtime wages as he deems necessary.

Members of council’s Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee and its Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee voted unanimously in favor of the plans, presented by Chief James Hosfelt at a meeting Feb. 17.

The recommendations represent the end of work the joint committee began last fall in the wake of several high-profile incidents of gang violence in the city, including an August shootout in the Manchester Square public housing development.

If the full council agrees, Hosfelt will have the authority to add two more sworn officers to his force, bringing the total compliment of officers to 93.

Council recently approved the filling of two vacancies in the department, and Hosfelt said those recruits would head to the State Police Academy in March or April.

If the additional officers are approved, the chief said he’ll hire two recruits quickly and get them into the same academy class.

Hosfelt said the new officers could be fully trained and on the streets by August or September.

The chief said he intends to use the 92nd and 93rd officers to bolster the department’s community policing unit. Experienced officers currently working the patrol unit would be reassigned to community policing, in some cases returning to beats they worked before budget and staffing shortages shifted them elsewhere, Hosfelt said.

“Those two additional officers, my intent is to put them back in the community policing section to address the issues in the housing developments,” the chief said.

Community policing, which involves officers interacting closely with a specific set of neighborhoods on a daily basis, is the key to addressing a growing gang problem, Hosfelt added.

Since it will be months until any new officers hit Dover’s streets, Hosfelt also requested the committee approve the creation of a temporary discretionary fund in the amount of $40,000, to be administered by the chief.

That money will serve as a stop-gap measure and cover overtime for officers in high-crime areas until the new recruits arrive, Hosfelt said.

“This would be a one-time thing to get us through the end of the fiscal year while those officers are in the academy,” he said.

The chief said he also plans to pay officers overtime for getting a jump on their community policing plans, which include interacting with at-risk youth in settings like the Boys & Girls Clubs or the city’s recreation centers.

City Manager Tony DePrima said the police department has the money in its budget to cover two new officers and the discretionary fund through the close of this fiscal year, which ends June 30. The department sets aside money each year to pay for retiring officers’ unused sick and vacation time, but since no one has retired this year that money has not been used.

Next year, one of the new officers’ salaries will have dedicated funding in the form of an unexpired federal COPS grant, which was used to pay former patrolman Jason Knight, who was drummed out of the department last year after being implicated in an illegal prescription drug sting.

If council approves the hiring of additional officers, it will have to find the money to pay for them going forward.

In addition to his requests for more officers, Hosfelt suggested moving officers who are currently charged with monitoring sex offender registration and local red-light cameras back to the street and replacing them with civilians, likely retired officers who still hold their law enforcement certifications.

Modeled on what the state police are doing, Hosfelt said the plan allows him to effectively boost his compliment of officers at a cheaper rate by hiring civilians at a fraction of the cost.

No specific proposal was made to go ahead with the plan right away, but the committee gave Hosfelt the OK to bring forth changes whenever he is ready.

With or without cost-savings measures, Councilman David Bonar said he will do whatever he can to make sure the funding is there to cover at least what the chief has asked for.

“I still believe we need more police officers and I’ll continue to fight for this,” he said. “Perhaps this isn’t the year to take it to the level I would like to see.”

Council will take up the matter at its Feb. 28 meeting.

Email Doug Denison at doug.denison@doverpost.com