Barberton Police, doing ‘less with less’

Karla Tipton

Herald Staff Writer

“You can’t make the check engine light go away.”

That was the prognosis made by Lt. James Dawson about one of the Barberton Police Department’s cruisers that’s seen better days. “It’s one of the newer cars. It has 110,000 miles on it,” he said. 

The manufacturer calculates emergency fleet vehicle mileage based on idle hours, which puts the car’s mileage closer to 650,000. (For every hour the vehicle idles, it accumulates 33 miles of driving).

Car 17 has 839,000 miles; car 19, 866,000 miles. “The least mileage car we have has 435,000 miles,” said Dawson. “They run 24/7. When someone is getting out of that car, another is getting in it. These cars are infrastructure, and without it, it’s harder to do our job,” he said.

According to Dawson, who oversees the administration of the fleet, “Our cruisers are all due to be replaced, and that’s why they’re always breaking down.”

Because the department has not received authorization for several years from the Barberton City Council to purchase new vehicles, the problems have multiplied. The upholstery is bursting at the seams, and many of the cars have suspension, braking, power steering or electrical issues. 

Sgt. Robert Lynn of the department’s detective bureau described a recent incident. “Somebody was given a call on a domestic. He goes out there, gets in the car and it’s totally dead. Can’t respond to the call. And that’s not the first time it happened.”

The situation has gotten so bad that patrols are doubling up, two officers per car. “If we get two cars tomorrow, we’re still in a bad spot, because we’ve got four or six cars that have to be replaced,” said Dawson. “We are never going to catch up.” 

Out of sight, out of mind

The inability to keep the cruisers on the road impacts the overall visual effect of police presence. Chief Vince Morber said, “That’s one less car that people see out in the city. One car can only go to one call, make one traffic stop. The cruiser is a force multiplier. You’re more visible with two.”

The station is an active one. “Last year, we had 35,000 traffic stops and 44,000 total calls,” he said.

Because of the constant usage, the condition of the fleet has deteriorated over the past three years.

“Every year, when we’re asked to submit our budget, we put in for new cars and it’s been cut. I put in $90,000 this year for new vehicles and it never came through,” said Morber.

“At a certain point, you set your priorities and spend your time and money accordingly. I feel the police department has gotten the short shrift in this whole budget crunch issue,” he said. “We can’t do more with less. You do less with less.”

In the near future, the city council will again make a decision on whether to approve new cruisers. According to Morber, “An ordinance has been sent to council to approve two cruisers for us. So as long as council approves it comes September, we’ll be able to start the process of obtaining some much needed vehicles.”

Inadequate facilities

It’s not only the cruisers showing wear and tear. The building that houses the police department was constructed more than 60 years ago, and cannot be retrofitted to make it adequate for modern law enforcement activities. 

“It’s been outdated since it was built,” said Morber.  “Just one little cubby hole after another. It’s got no central air. There’s little ventilation. We have evidence scattered here, there, everywhere. We had to use the shower room: if there’s a crime, that’s where we put evidence.”

Because of the floor plan configuration, prisoners must be escorted from the jail for interrogation or DUI testing, through corridors also used by the public. 

Morber said, “An officer has to negotiate them out of the jail, through mostly locked doors, and control them at the same time. It’s a safety issue for everybody involved. Not just the officers, but the public and the prisoners.”

If the Barberton City Jail was closed, as was considered earlier this year, it wouldn’t reopen because of state regulations. “It will not get certified as fully passing state jail standards due to the age and layout,” said Dawson.

The jail, which has seven cells, is a necessity. At the end of July, the 838th prisoner of the year was booked. Without the jail, “Those people would have nowhere to go,” he said, because the Summit County jail only takes people charged with felonies, not misdemeanors. 

“We are so busy, that sometimes we need to take people to jail,” said Morber. “If we don’t have that, our job is very difficult. That would have a huge impact on the city.”

When asked about plans for building new facilities, he said, “We have land for a new station.” Keeping citizens safe should be a priority, “but it comes down to funding,” and it’s not being allocated to the police department. 

“I don’t know why,” he added. “Because somebody else screams louder or somebody else wants to look prettier? We’re not popular. But if you’re not safe, nothing else matters. How can you care about potholes when your neighbors are going off at 3 in the morning with a bonfire, fireworks or drugs?

“It’s frustrating. We do the best we can with what we’ve got,” said Morber. “I give my officers a lot of credit. They take pride in their job. They’re professionals. They’re not whining.

“The police department deserves better — the officers that work here and the citizens that they serve,” he said.

 

26 Comments

  1. B-Town Going Postal on August 14, 2019 at 7:55 am

    What they need to do is get some real detectives who will actually pursue criminals when they are told their exact whereabouts and what they did as opposed to waiting on the criminals to return their phone calls. Like a thief is going to call the cops back….LOL…..what genius came up with that?

  2. BUCK UP ! on August 11, 2019 at 6:38 pm

    If the vehicles have ac, heat and the brakes work whats the problem ?? You are working, not taking a vacation to a casino some where. You have criminals riding in the back, not some sort of rock star going to a gig. Get real down there.

    • Epsteins Killers on August 12, 2019 at 11:42 am

      I’ve seen an officer broke down in the middle of the road waiting on a tow. Cant have that. 435,000 least mileage vehicle.Id say it’s time for some new vehicles. Put some cash up with the RV and get 3-5 new ones. Swallow your pride on that RV!!!

  3. swap looking cool for necessity on August 11, 2019 at 9:09 am

    trade the rv in for a few new vehicles.

  4. Joe on August 9, 2019 at 10:23 am

    They must be priming us for another levy. The ABJ posted Barberton will have a school levy on the next ballot that will cost the owner of a home worth $100.000, $191.60 per year. I simply don’t know where a working man can come up with all this tax money that Barberton expects.

    • Coach on August 11, 2019 at 10:47 am

      From your third job dummy

      • Epsteins Killers on August 12, 2019 at 12:08 pm

        🤣🤣🤣 didnt take long!!!

  5. Anonymous on August 9, 2019 at 6:33 am

    Does the car run. Is it kept Maintenance up.. Is the outside of the car look decent, newer tires. And does everything work on the inside. If you’re referring to rip Seats and tore up Handle’s… Who cares. The person rides in it ..She be responsible keeping it clean. It’s a machinery. It’s not a home

    • stop lying on August 9, 2019 at 6:34 pm

      that the mayor’s job. you call it a budget. Mayor and Herald stop putting out Lies. The people of Barberton are not going to put up with this SH@@ any more the Billy boys have to go

    • Epsteins Killers on August 12, 2019 at 12:06 pm

      huh?

  6. Anonymous on August 8, 2019 at 5:59 pm

    They shouldn’t of bought that RV

    • Epsteins Killers on August 12, 2019 at 12:05 pm

      but it’s great on gas!!!

  7. Heather on August 8, 2019 at 2:49 pm

    When I was working at the Dollar general in Barberton, the police came when we called every time. They where always helpful and handled every situation is honor. I work there when we got robbed at gun point during the day. Twice for me. The police deserve all the respect for the hard work they do. I truly hope you get new cars soon.

  8. Donald dijak on August 8, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    Im wo confused as to were all the ticket money goes you guys hand out alot as you stated yourself what about the outrageous court cost an fine money were does that go ? Must be going to pay the high salaries of the unneeded people sitting up high in desk realy sad the cars an safety should come before your salary increases to officials real sad

    • Crystals toothbrush on August 12, 2019 at 12:03 pm

      I’m moving in with u donnie!!! 🤣🤣🤣

  9. Coach on August 8, 2019 at 1:53 pm

    I don’t say much positive in my posts here.

    But I’ll say this; to the herald, thank you for running this and also going to the length of the vehicle photos. This is a great story, you have a responsibility do print these types of things.

    To the Barberton Police Department; thank you! You guys do a great job. The job of a cop is not easy, and lackluster equipment makes it that much harder. You guys clearly have a commitment to the citizens that you take seriously. Thank you.

    • Epsteins Killers on August 12, 2019 at 12:01 pm

      turning over a new leaf coach??? that’ll last!!! 🤣

  10. Chips on August 8, 2019 at 12:04 pm

    Motorcycles

    • Hometown on August 8, 2019 at 3:04 pm

      That wouldn’t be a very good investment for our 8 months of winter.

      • Epsteins Killers on August 12, 2019 at 11:59 am

        🤣

      • #whogivesashit on August 13, 2019 at 10:00 am

        Akron has a dozen motorcycles. dummy

  11. Joe W on August 8, 2019 at 11:43 am

    Well, hopefully police are responding to more important complaints than my neighbors shooting off a couple fireworks on July 4th. But we still need them to do their jobs, and its unfortunate they can’t get any budget money. The potholes are important too as Barberton has worse roads than most of the surrounding cities. And those of us tax payers need the roads to get to & from work.

    What we don’t need though, is the fire department. I’ve lived in Barberton for 15 years, never needed them once. And their union contract that gives them 8 hrs accrued sick time for every 80 worked is a joke, not to mention a scam for them to collect overtime. Lay them off, and have them come work out here in the real world.

    • hey Joe's neighbors on August 12, 2019 at 11:58 am

      he called on u on the 4th

  12. Anonymous on August 8, 2019 at 11:35 am

    Get off your ass and do a walk

    • Not anonymous toby on August 8, 2019 at 12:47 pm

      They do walk. They interact with the community, and do so because most of Barberton police force, love Barberton. If you don’t have a solution, you’re part of the problem. I hope that ships within the community can and will donate time to get these cars safe and reliable if it’s downed again. Barberton mayor has really dropped the ball.

    • Anonymous on August 8, 2019 at 4:42 pm

      I understand the idle and hours which is correct, 1 hour equals 33 miles, and even the seat being torn but that door panel is abuse. How the hell did they manage to do that? Do the officers personal cars look like that? Just neglect and piss poor attitude.

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