Why Mt. Juliet still doesn’t need any more police officers

The City Manager and the Police Chief continue to beat the drum for hiring more police officers. In a story in the Tennessean’s Wilson A.M. section on 9/23/2009 they tried their best to build support for increasing the Mt. Juliet Police Department.

“We are the smallest state per capita police department,” Robertson said. “We don’t have enough police officers.” “A city the size of Mt. Juliet should ahve 70-75 officers,” Robertson said.

Those statements are laughable and only make sense if you believe that the crime rate in Mt. Juliet is the same as inner city Nashville, the Lebanon public housing projects, or Detroit. (You can review comparative crime stats and analysis here).

The truth is, of course, that it’s not. In fact, the same Wilson AM story reported that crime in Mt. Juliet is down by 12 percent from the previous year. If Mt. Juliet’s crime rate is decreasing, how can it be true at the same time that the Police Department is too small?

Robertson and Chief Garrett point to an increase of 67% in “calls for service,” but even this, by itself doesn’t prove the need for more officers. If an eight hour shift of officers handled 10 calls a shift last year, and now they’re handling 16 calls a shift, then calls for service are up 67%. But that doesn’t mean you have to hire new officers. They still might not be at capacity.

If Mt. Juliet did have 70-75 officers (that would be about 67% more than the 43 they have now) they might write a lot more tickets for city court, but there’s very little prospect that the 32 new officers would make much difference in the already low crime rate in Mt. Juliet, which, despite the population growth and the opening of new retail centers, has been going down.

First rule of sociology: Every organization or department wants to grow. And police officers (like firemen or building inspectors) always want you to hire more police officers. Ocassionally they’re right. But they can hardly be expected to be objective about it.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Why Mt. Juliet still doesn’t need any more police officers

  1. Shawn Donovan

    As most know from my posts that I work in public safety as a firemen. I look at the statistics of the crime rate being down as a good thing with the amount of officers we do have. Reading the comments made by the Chief as showing a need for more officers is a proactive one. Why do we as residents want to sit back and wait while we continue to grow with all the various projects building and say “well our crime rate is low now so we don’t need them”. Has the crime rates risen since Providence has come online (yes) will they most likely rise more with a Walmart being built just up the road (i’m sure yes).

    Overall the City of Mt. Juliet is behind the curve when it comes to public safety staffing (police, fire, ems), we look at our staffing levels that cover the residents of our town of over 26,000 as one of a town of 12,000. Can anybody tell me that the staffing levels for fire protection and ems are adequate here? We have had over 4 years to work to find a solution to the fire protection issue in Mt. Juliet (since the major boom of District 4) and yet we still have same staffing at Station 3 (one staffed fire engine and one ambulance) as we did in the 90’s.

    These dedicated public safety professionals deserve your support with an increase of personnel. We as residents should support these departments, not wait until the statistics start increasing

  2. Aunt Bea

    I carry a 357 for protection. Its much lighter that a Police Officer.

  3. Paul Walker

    Why do Mount Juliet Police moniter the interstate if they are short on officers. Are they the police protecting citizens or collecting revenue.I dont see a need for more officers if all they do write speeding tickets.I personaly feel like the police are collecting revenue for the city and trying to justify the need for more officers.

  4. Westsider

    “We have had over 4 years to work to find a solution to the fire protection issue in Mt. Juliet (since the major boom of District 4) and yet we still have same staffing at Station 3 (one staffed fire engine and one ambulance) as we did in the 90’s.”

    Mr. Donovan,

    The major “boom” of District 4 as you describe is also sending millions of dollars to the County. The sales tax revenue generated by Providence Marketplace alone could have built and staffed several fire stations by now.

    Each new Del Webb household pays 3000 dollars of impact fees directly to the county too. Del Webb prohibits children so it is no burden on the school system. Those impact fees alone could build yet another fire station over time.

    Sure, Mt. Juliet’s growth stresses county infrastructure – but the county has no problem taxing and keeping the dollars associated with that growth in west Wilson County.

    It just has a problem spending growth money on fire service in west Wilson County. And that is a problem – a county problem.

  5. Butch Huber

    Westsider,

    I agree with what you have stated here, however, I do believe there is one small error. I don’t believe the county can spend impact fee money on a fire station, I believe the only place that money can be used is in the development of roads. As I understand it, that was made law by the state legislature. That having been said, bringing in the money from impact fees could probably allow for an offset in funding from another source, which would then free up money for a fire department.

    Although I believe it was wrong to do, the Mayor bragged to me about how she forced the developer of Providence to give up land for a fire station. The city has the land, the county only needs to build the station.

    Staffing is the main issue. I heard a report about a woman having had a seizure or something at a local restaurant recently and it took thirty minutes for an ambulance to arrive on the scene. I believe that is because the county isn’t properly funding ambulance service. They, according to a source inside WEMA, are using money generated through ambulance service to fund the fire department. I believe that is being done so they don’t have to institute fire tax districts. If they institute fire tax districts the county loses all-the-way around. The city doesn’t want to pay for fire protection twice, so they refuse to build a fire department belonging to the city. So here we sit.

    From what I can tell, we basically have the same ambulance service and fire protection we had when the city was half the size it is now. I have done a lot of research on this topic and my opinion, for what it is worth, is that the county needs to drastically step up ambulance service in this area, then we need to look at fire protection. Every scenario that has been given on this website regarding fire protection points toward ambulance service, not fire protection. There just aren’t that many fires around here. There are, however, numerous calls for ambulance service. Last I heard, we have two ambulances and one ambulance crew. What is with that?

  6. Westsider

    Mr. Huber,

    Historically, the countywide “fire protection funding scam” has been an effort to insist WEMA is not really funded by property taxes. Money is fungible but in many past budget years the county could not have funded WEMA without using property tax dollars (total revenue from all other sources combined was not enough to fund the WEMA budget).

    The reason the county cannot (legally) fund a countywide fire system with property taxes is because a Judge told them so. Fire tax districts are required to properly assign service costs to both rural and urban areas. The county has resisted fire tax districts because cost of service (per capita) in the rural areas is so much higher than in the urban areas. Property taxes (including fire tax district rates) would be much higher for the east end of the county.

    The ironic part of all this is that the county share of Providence Marketplace sales tax receipts has now made it possible to (legitimately) claim that WEMA is not funded by property tax – this while the county refuses to use any of that ever-increasing revenue to upgrade any WEMA service in west Wilson County – and while claiming that the new retail in Mt. Juliet is causing a higher demand for that unimproved service. Duh..

    The adequate facility tax imposed by Wilson County was implemented to offset costs associated with growth. More people require more service and WEMA service can be (and should be) funded by this tax. I believe you may be confusing Mt. Juliet’s impact fee with Wilson County’s adequate facility tax Mr. Huber.

    The simple truth is that west Wilson County residents have long been subsidizing the countywide WEMA service at much higher (per capita) levels than east Wilson County residents have. West Wilson County Commissioners have been guilty of letting this happen for decades. My own County Commissioner actually voted to repeal fire protection for his own home in 2006! Double duh..

    Firefighters have become so frustrated with county stonewalling on this issue they have convinced themselves this is all Mt. Juliet’s fault for not having a city fire department. I hate to tell them but their political efforts are really being used to justify even more inaction by the very commission causing the problem – the County Commission.

    A remedial math course for west Wilson County residents could force attention to the problem instead of its symptoms. The County wants to take in more and more money but then provide even less service to the area growing revenue the most. It is a real shame that so many otherwise intelligent people cannot see what is really being pulled on them by the Wilson County Commission.

  7. Butch Huber

    Good post Westsider.

    I was referencing your post where you said

    “Each new Del Webb household pays 3000 dollars of impact fees directly to the county too. Del Webb prohibits children so it is no burden on the school system. Those impact fees alone could build yet another fire station over time.”
    You were talking about impact fees going to the county. I assumed from what you wrote in your post that you were talking about impact fees and not adequate facilities taxes. I am not familiar with everything that goes to the county, however, if you are actually speaking of impact fees, and not adequate facilities taxes, and if the county is under the same requirements as the city, then they can’t use that money for anything but roads. If you are speaking of adequate facilities taxes it seems as though, by the title of the tax itself, they would be able to use those funds to build schools.

    Regardless, I agree with you regarding the fire protection issue. I still believe a responsibly run and managed county-wide fire protection service is the best answer to fire protection, however, I don’t believe they can really do what they need to do and still keep the county wide service legal.

  8. Shawn Donovan

    Thank you Westsider for the extensive detail with regards to the current funding going to both the city and the county from my development since I live in Providence.

    The facts of the funds that are being generated with Providence is nothing knew and fingers can be pointed at both Mt. Juliet and the County. I say this since its the city of Mt. Juliet that approved the projects. The ones who are suffering in the situation is the citizens and the firefighters because nobody will step up to the plate and come to the table with a solution.

    While anyone can step up and say that we as residents generate millions to the county, I want to see someone with a plan to increase my level of protection period because up until this point as I noted we have scene nothing from the county or the city (outside of what is contracted). Yes there is land for a firehouse/police substation in Providence, but that is the same grassy field that it was when I moved into Providence.

    It is easy for us as residents who don’t work for WEMA to sit back and point fingers ourselves as to who should come up with a solution. What I think we keep forgetting is that we have these men and women who come to work to protect us every shift, even though we continue to stack the cards against them.

    Yes Butch you are correct with regards to the medical calls. A majority of the calls of service for Station 3 are medical related, but you also need to remember that these same individuals who staff the ambulance are also counted on to fight fires, so they related. With the staffing levels below so low these individuals are needed to do both jobs even if they are assigned to an ambulance.

    Equipment and staffing wise at Station 3, you have 1 ambulance, 2 engines, and 1 brush truck with 4 personnel staffing with 11 seat positions on the trucks.

  9. Butch Huber

    Shawn,

    I don’t think you quite understand. I am for giving the city what it “needs”, not what certain people want for personal or political reasons.

    I recognize that the same people who staff ambulance staff fire protection, however, the stats clearly indicate that we need more people assigned to ambulance crews. Let me say it in an extreme and perhaps it will become clearer. Suppose we had four ambulance crews on duty at a time, (which is actually what the stats say we should have if I remember correctly), and let’s pretend they were all cross-trained on fire and Ambulance. Would we then have better coverage or less coverage? Better, Right? That is what I am saying. The county is underfunding the ambulance service, using the money from ambulance service to fund fire protection, and then under-providing fire protection in West Wilson County.

    The city just sprang for equipping and training a volunteer augmentation force to assist WEMA, it has acquired land for a new fire department, and still the county is playing a financial shell game with fire protection. It is time to turn the light on regarding this subject and look at things as they really are, and not as some people want it to be or want us to believe.

    Shawn, look at the stats regarding the proper staffing of ambulance service and the answer to this equation becomes very, very clear.

    If Ambulance service was properly staffed there would be much less stress on fire protection, Right? Once we have ambulance staffed properly then we can take an honest and proper look at fire protection. Perhaps Mt. Juliet needs to push some buttons regarding ambulance service or perhaps we need to start our own ambulance service.

    If we were to start our own fire department we would essentially be augmenting the county because we would be sending out our units to serve the county. Remember, Mt Juliet is only 20 square miles. The rest of the area around here is in Wilson County. So, the question is, how much fire protection service and ambulance service would we actually need in order to provide for the city? I guarantee the number needed would be drastically less than the county needs to provide for the rest of the area that is not inside the city. Think about it. If Mt. Juliet were to take back their fire station, purchase their own trucks, hire their own fire fighters and start their own ambulance crew how would that really help the county? The county would still be required to serve the same area (Perhaps minus 20 square miles). It won’t really change things much for the county. I realize that something needs to be done, but the correct thing to do is do the correct thing, not the politically correct thing, or the correct thing based on what fire-fighters “want”, but rather what is actually the “correct thing”. That is going to take the county and the incorporated cities of this county to get together and find a real solution.

    I think they need to start with Ambulance service staffing and equipping and then move to rectify any shortfall in fire-fighting staffing.

  10. Shawn Donovan

    Butch,

    After reading your comments I am quite clear with the issue we are discussing here.

    What continues to be an issue is people throw “stats” out here with no plan. It is the one’s who simply are looking at what they read on the internet but do not actually have a full understanding of this business is the issue as well, i.e. you continue to mention increasing staffing on an ambulance. Staffing on an ambulance is 2 firefighters (standard across the board nationwide), and WEMA has 2 on the ambulance. We need additional ambulances, staffing for that equipment, but this alone will not improve response times to areas such as Providence without a new station due to the amount of traffic and population south of I-40

    What it all comes down to is MONEY. The professionals firefighters at WEMA know what they need, its getting the funding to do it. They are the ones riding the truck every day. As you know that I personally was the one who stepped up and led the effort to organize the MJ volunteer suppliment to assist WEMA not for political reasons or a resume builder as has been thrown around. The 11 other Mt. Juliet residents who make up this group do so to help the full time staff at WEMA in West Wilson. This in no way was a permanent fix to the problem in MJ. Butch I would suggest that you go down to Station 3 or 4 and see for yourself the situation if you haven’t done so already.

    As you mention, someone needs to step up and get something organized to find a soluntion. The question is who can bring both sides together to get some meaningful discussion between both parties “without the politics”.

  11. Butch Huber

    Shawn,

    One need not be a fire fighter or an EMT to read the stats developed by the most experienced fire fighters and EMTs and professionals of that field and use their own numbers. I don’t think I have said they don’t need equipment in station 3. I am saying that they (the county) need to fully fund “and” equip “and” staff ambulance service using “ambulance service funds” and then, once we have properly staffed ambulance service, look at the needs on the fire fighting side of the equation. It is questionable, looking at the stats generated by people who seem to have a lot more experience than you have Shawn, and certainly more experience than I have, whether there is need for more fire fighting staff at station 3. I do believe that there needs to be another station on the south side of Mt. Juliet, and there needs to be a couple ambulances and crews to man them and there needs to be fire fighters there with the appropriate equipment. Whether they need to be located inside the city limits or outside the city limits is up for debate.

    I have been willing to discuss this fire fighter issue, but in the end I typically get hostility rather than reason. If someone can show me stats that prove me wrong, if they can show me that the people who have done the studies are wrong, and if they can prove their position to be correct, using stats and researchable facts and figures, then I will be on their team, however, as long as the stats I have prove that the ambulance issue is the place to start working I have a hard time focusing somewhere else.

    Going to station 3 is something I am more than willing to do, Shawn. I will bring a six pack of soda and you and I can sit down and go through all of the facts and figures, look at the stats, and discuss the possible solutions. But please don’t expect me to just take your side of this or the side of the fire fighters in Mt. Juliet just because you wear the uniform and I don’t. Wearing the uniform actually means you have a personal interest in the outcome, therefore I have to discount (discount, not dismiss) what you say and look beyond your personal interest, and the personal interests of others, and go with facts and figures, then adapt those facts and figures to the unique equation that is Mt. Juliet. In the end, it doesn’t matter though, until the county determines to properly fund fire protection, meaning not only the right amount of money, but from the right funds, not much is going to change. You know that, and I know that.

  12. Shawn Donovan

    Good points there Butch. Maybe I can take you up on the six pack of pop (I”m from Michigan) but you’ll have to come down to my fire hall in Franklin.

    Your are correct that I do have a personal bias here since I’ve worked as a firefighter for close to 11 years in varying sized and types of departments. Having that bias pushing me hard to get my brother and sisters what they need to do the job safely and effectively is my goal.

    As you noted, this would be a better discussion to have personally so I’ll leave it at that.

  13. Westsider

    I applaud the efforts of those who raise this issue.

    Firefighters risk “biting the hand that feeds them” yet continue to remind us of the danger of this inadequate service. Risking life, limb, and possibly even employment they continue to put the safety of this community ahead of their own.

    It is a shame so few people are listening.

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