The people of Wheeling had their say at the ballot box. Now residents are seeing the change.
Back in November, voters adopted an ordinance that repealed a 40-year requirement of two police officers per cruiser for the City of Wheeling. Earlier this month Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger made the switch from two to one per car.
“It’s a very dramatic change and it’s required a lot thought and planning but it’s been a very positive change,” according to the chief.
It’s all brand new to the officers on the force.
“Matter of fact, there’s not one officer that’s employed here that’s worked anything other than 2 officers per car,” explained Schwertfeger.
The switchover on January 6th required some changes including preparing the city’s dispatchers to handle double the cruisers on the road, hence more radio traffic. And the 85 officers on the force have been learning to do things on their own.
The chief says they had enough cruisers in their fleet to handle one-cop per car but some of the cars are about ready for retirement and he’s been busy trying to find money to buy at least four new cruisers outside of their annual budget.
Schwertfeger says the people of Wheeling wanted the change and so far so far they’re liking what they see.
“There’s been a lot of positive feedback from the community and that’s what’s really important. They voted for it,” Schwertfeger said. “They voted for the change. The response from the community itself has just been astronomical.”
The chief says he has high hopes this change will really make an impact on Wheeling.
“Certainly we expect to see some significant drops in our crime trends and this frees us up to be more specialized in the Wheeling Police Department.”
Soon after the election the FOP filed a lawsuit saying city council did not follow proper procedure when it voted to put the issue before voters. That case is still in litigation.
Schwertfeger says his officers have handled the change with motivation and are dedicated to protecting the people of the community.