A requirement that’s been around in Wheeling for 40 years could be a thing of the past following Tuesday’s election.
Wheeling residents will vote on whether to eliminate an ordinance that requires two police officers to be in every police cruiser. Voters approved the requirement in 1972.
City Manager Robert Herron says Wheeling is the only city in the U.S. with such a requirement. He says it needs to be eliminated to give the police chief more flexibility.
“Wheeling is a very safe community but what we’re experiencing is vandalism, speeding in the neighborhoods, things of that nature,” Herron said. “We think that one-person cars certainly can go a long ways toward addressing that.”
Wheeling City Council has already backed the change. Herron says it was the 1972 city council that created the ordinance. He says there were apparently some concerns about reduction in the police force so council put the plan before voters to stop it.
Herron says things have changed since then.
“There is no movement to reduce the size of the force. There’s not going to be any layoffs and we’re going to provide additional officer training,” he said.
Wheeling currently has a minimum requirement of six officers per shift. Herron says that means only three cruisers. He says police need to be in more places.
“If you have six officers per shift with one-person patrol cars then you have six cars out on the road and that automatically increases the exposure,” he said.
If voters repeal the two-cops per cruiser requirement the city will likely have to buy about three new cruisers.
Wheeling currently has approximately 80 police officers.