Monroeville chief's top priority to draft budget
With a stack of binders tucked under his left arm and a fistful of keys in his right hand, Monroeville police Chief Doug Cole passed quickly through the lobby of the police department Friday en route to his office.
A budget meeting with the municipal manager ran late, so Cole had 30 minutes to scarf down a Subway sandwich before his next meeting with the director of information services. But Cole wasn't complaining.
After being reappointed as police chief at the Jan. 14 council meeting, Cole said he had a list of about 10 objectives for the police department that he planned to address with haste.
He said his first priority was to draft a proposed 2014 budget for the department, which would determine the number of supervising officers in 2014.
Because of retirements in 2013 and a change by council to the process of promoting officers, Cole said, the detective division was reduced to one officer.
Since October, the police department had been led by Sgt. Rob McConnell, who was named officer in charge. McConnell worked patrol shifts while overseeing the department because of a lack of officers in 2013 for reasons that included two deaths for reasons unrelated to the job.
A civil-service committee meeting this month could help to move the process to promote officers forward.
“We don't have enough supervisors,” Cole said last week.
“And the benefit to younger detectives is you get more work out of them.”
Despite the personnel issues in the police department last year, the addition of enthusiastic officers with the experience of serving in other departments has bolstered the force, Cole said.
The number of charges filed for incidents involving drug activity in the Monroeville business district has increased in recent months, which, Cole speculated, was the result of the new officers.
“It seems apparent that we've hired some good people,” Cole said.
“They're just learning our way of doing things.”
As of last week, the police department's operational budget was about $9.5 million of the estimated $26.6-million preliminary Monroeville budget.
That amount would provide for 46 officers, Cole said, to serve the municipality's 28,000 residents.
Monroeville officers typically respond to a higher number of calls than neighboring municipalities because of retail thefts and traffic calls in a large commercial and medical district.
In addition to bolstering the detective division, patrol officers will be encouraged this year to develop drug cases beyond a routine arrest in an attempt to collect information on higher-profile dealers, Cole said.
“We're trying to get patrol guys to continue along with investigations to see where they go,” he said.
The officers, who would check in with a supervising detective, could bolster their resumes and receive overtime pay, Cole said.
The chief said he also plans to cooperate with county and state drug-enforcement agencies with investigations involving sizable shipments of narcotics that in the past have been dealt at hotels in the Monroeville business district.
“If you eliminate drugs at a higher level, you impact the street drugs coming in to our town,” he said.
More than 30 drug-related arrests were executed in neighboring Pitcairn last month after a six-month narcotics investigation involving the Allegheny County police.
Cole was demoted by municipal manager Lynette McKinney last February and later fired. A new majority on council resulting from the November election suspended her after the new members took office this month and rehired Cole.
Plum police Chief Jeff Armstrong, 46, said recently that he welcomed the return of Cole, who agreed to have the Monroeville department rejoin the East Hills DUI Task Force, which currently includes Plum, Forest Hills, North Versailles, Oakmont, Penn Hills, White Oak and Wilkins.
Monroeville last year dropped out of the task force after Cole was removed as chief.
“(Cole) is a great guy, and we have a good working relationship,” Armstrong said. “I am glad he is back.”
Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or firstname.lastname@example.org.