Under staffed police dept. still able to respond to emergencies


Telecommunicator Heide Durham answers phone calls at the DeKalb Police Department, 200 S. 4th St., on Tuesday.

By Meaghen Harms

DeKalb | The DeKalb Police Department is understaffed, but still equipped to answer emergency calls.

Police Chief Bill Feithen said police were understaffed before the recession based on a check that was done with other university towns. DeKalb has gone from 63 to 60 officers since around 2007. It was recommended that an additional eight officers be hired to meet the average for other university towns, Feithen said.

Mayor Kris Povlsen said hiring additional officers is not the only way to improve safety in DeKalb. The city is working with residents to establish or improve neighborhood watches and install video cameras throughout the city, Povlsen said. The city is also considering adding a resident police officer program in which the city would purchase a house and have an officer live in it to become immersed in the neighborhood, Povlsen said.

Officers are still able to respond to emergencies quickly, but non-emergencies are not always responded to immediately, Feithen said.

“It can be difficult to manage case loads,” Feithen said. “Non-emergency calls are sometimes delayed.”

The police force is under a policy of attrition, which means that when an employee leaves, the person is not replaced. However, the city council has authorized the replacement of two officers who retired in fall, Feithen said.

“The city council is sensitive to the need for additional officers,” Feithen said.

Feithen said he hopes that as the economy and budget improve, more officers may be hired.

Mayor Povlsen said hiring more police officers will not completely prevent crime. He said residents need to report crimes to help prevention.

“We have adequate police coverage,” Polvsen said. “I applaud the police department for responding quickly to emergencies.”