Great Bend council members looking into police chief’s dept. concerns

GREAT BEND, Kan. (KSNW) — Monday night wasn’t the first time council members heard about problems happening at the Great Bend Police Department.

“We have been aware, for quite some time, of understaffing and the inability to fill those positions,” said councilman Dana Dawson.

The police chief said it’s putting his department in a dangerous state.

“It gets into a situation where you have to work the officers like dogs just to try to get the streets covered,” Chief Cliff Couch said to council members Monday night. “We’re in a situation like that right now.”

According to the city council, this situation is not something they are taking lightly.

Councilman Cory Zimmerman said keeping the community safe is the most important thing for council members.

“To grow and prosper,” he added. “That it’s a safe community and want to bring their families here.”

Zimmerman said he’s been talking to officers to get as much insight about the problems before deciding how the council should solve them.

“Pay and benefits is something I’ve talked to several officers about and they’ve expressed concerns about,” Zimmerman said.

Couch asked council members to conduct a compensation study. He informed the council that low compensation is a “turnoff” when trying to recruit officers.

“There’s two similarly sized agencies about an hour away from us, and they both start $1 to $2 an hour more than us,” he said.

Council members say any pay issues will be addressed during the budget process. For Dawson, he first wants to fill the five officer vacancies already accounted for in the budget.

“I will be proposing whatever it takes to do it,” Dawson said. “It just has to be done for the safety of Great Bend.”

Once that happens, council members believe they can sit down and decide if the department needs additional officers, as the chief suggested.

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