Dagsboro pitches police merger to Frankford council

FRANKFORD — A few miles separate Frankford and Dagsboro.

With that proximity, Dagsboro Police Chief Floyd Toomey has pitched a police force merger that would have the two separate departments function under singular leadership.

Public workshop discussion will likely determine if the two Sussex County towns are miles apart or mutually receptive to Chief Toomey’s idea.

“The purpose of this is to increase the police presence within both towns,” Chief Toomey said in a presentation at the Aug. 7 Frankford town council meeting. “Right now, with our four officers we get roughly 16 hours coverage. It would increase our coverage. It would increase your coverage dynamically.”

“Currently the town of Dagsboro has in their budget positions for four officers. The town of Frankford, we would ask that they would provide us with two officers to bring the total force up to six officers,” said Chief Toomey. “With six officers, we believe that we can cover 20 hours a day, three days out of the week, and 22 hours of the day the other four days. That would leave us with just a couple hours with no coverage for both towns during the seven-day period.”

Since July 27 with the resignation of Mark Hudson, Frankford has had no police chief or town police coverage.

Frankford councilman Marty Presley pointed to the law of large numbers, which would allow more coverage. ‘The reason that council really took a look at this is because the realization is that when you are a one-person police force — and he is also a chief, with administrative responsibilities — it really takes away from how much coverage you get from a police officer because, if he is good at it, 20 hours a week administrative stuff,” said Mr. Presley.

Chief Toomey, who had approached Frankford several times before on a merger, emphasized the goal is that there would be a singular chain of command.

“So, it would be separate departments, not one joint department. In other words, I would be the chief of Dagsboro and Frankford. My sergeant would be the sergeant of Dagsboro and Frankford. And anyone else that promoted up the chain of command would remain that integrity in both departments. They would have dual numbers,” said Chief Toomey.

If this progressed, Chief Toomey said Dagsboro wants Frankford to enter into a three-year minimum contract. “That would allow you and us at the end of that three years to say, ‘I still want my police department.’ The integrity of your police department would remain intact,” he said.

“The whole purpose of this is to make it mutually beneficial for both towns and both departments. It is to maintain the sovereignty of each town in each department. That’s why I don’t want a joint department,” said Chief Toomey. “If we go into joint departments we are looking at the potential of having to rewrite our charters, get legislative approval and all that. This way we don’t have to do that.”

A three-person police commission, comprised of Dagsboro’s mayor, Frankford’s council president (mayor) and the police chief would be implemented. Chief Toomey would report to the mayor.

“That’s the way it is in Dagsboro,” he said. “I’d like to maintain that integrity. If we move forward I don’t want to report to five different individuals.”
Frankford resident Jerry Smith questioned that plan, saying that Frankford council members “know most of the people in this town. They know more of what is going on than you would know.”

Chief Toomey’s proposal is for all officers to have gray/black uniforms, like the current Dagsboro color scheme but separate shoulder patches with respective town marking.

Dagsboro’s current fiscal year budget includes salary increases that Chief Toomey said make Dagsboro comparable to neighboring towns.

Annual funding obligations for Frankford for two officers would be $121,406, minus $6,000 for two officers through the state pension plan. Salary would be $43,680 per officer, plus $11,117 for insurance and $5,905 for pension.

The town of Frankford has budgeted about $78,000 for officer(s), vehicle maintenance and other expenses associated with the operation of a police department in its current fiscal year 2017-18 budget, Mr. Presley said.

An agreement would require officers on both forces be enrolled in the state pension plan.

“Dagsboro does have state health insurance plan; pension plan is the state pension,” said Chief Toomey. “I know that was a contentious argument within your town but I can’t in all good conscience have two officers working for me that don’t have the state pension and four that are. That would be a necessity.”

Chief Toomey anticipates that the cost could be the biggest deterrent.

“These costs reflect what we just did in the town of Dagsboro to try to get our pay up to where we were compatible with neighboring towns,” said Chief Toomey. “I went through a long litany that the Mayor (Brian Baull) can substantiate about the comparisons I did with neighboring towns. Our neighboring towns are all in the high 40,000s right now. We are at right around $43,000 for an experienced, seasoned officer who can be put out on his own with a short bit of in-house training.”

Mayor Baull said police agencies throughout the state “cannibalize” each other.

“When we train an officer down here and you pay them $35,000 they can go to Milford and make $60,000. There are some police agencies where patrolmen are making close to $75,000 a year. That’s a big chunk of money,” Mayor Baull said.

Chief Toomey, in response to audience questions, said salary, state pension plan and location are key factors in attracting and retaining officers. “With pay structure that I proposed and everything, which we have already implemented I think it will allow us to actually draw officers in,” he said. “I’d say one of the key things is state pension. Everybody looks at that.”

Mr. Presley received confirmation from Chief Toomey that under the agreement Frankford would have two officers who would be town of Frankford employees. “Our insurance coverage would basically stay the same. The only thing we would need to do is to enroll them into the state police pension fund,” said Mr. Presley.

Mr. Hudson resigned after about one year on the job. He succeeded Michael Warchol, who resigned in the summer of 2016 to relocate to the Baltimore area where his wife had been transferred with her job in Homeland Security.

William Dudley had resigned as Frankford’s police chief in December 2014. He subsequently retired.

Mayor Baull proposed that open public workshops be held in both towns.

Workshops will be scheduled and properly advertised, Frankford council president Joanne Bacon said.

Chief Toomey said history will show the towns of Dagsboro and Frankford had “a joint police department many, many years ago. They did; I’m going way back in history. They had a single department then.”

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