With the Town of Frankford temporarily without police coverage after former police chief Mark Hudson resigned from his post July 27 after serving less than a full year, Frankford officials are looking into other avenues to provide police protection to its residents.
Dagsboro Police Chief Floyd Toomey, along with Dagsboro Mayor Brian Baull, attended the monthly Frankford Town Council meeting earlier this week to discuss possibly sharing a police department.
“This is not new. The towns of Dagsboro and Frankford had a joint police department many, many years ago,” said Toomey, adding that the idea had first been discussed between the towns about a decade ago and again in more recent years.
Toomey said the Town of Dagsboro currently has four officer positions in its budget. If the two towns were to come together for police protection, Dagsboro would request Frankford provide the funds for two officers, to bring the total force up to six officers.
“With six officers, we believe we can cover 20 hours a day, three days out of the week and 22 hours a day the other four days. That would leave us with just a couple of hours of no coverage for both towns during the seven-day period.”
Toomey said the purpose of combining the two forces would be to increase the police presence in both towns.
“The goal would be — there would be a singular chain of command,” he said. But, “It would be two separate departments, not one department.”
Toomey would serve as the chief for both towns. Each officer serving the towns would serve the other similarly across the board — a sergeant in Frankford would be a sergeant in Dagsboro, and so forth.
Toomey said if the idea were to move forward, Dagsboro would request the towns enter into a minimum three-year contract, allowing both parties the option to, after the three years, take back their department if they so choose.
He noted that cost would probably be the biggest deterrent for the town. Frankford would have to pay for the salaries of two officers, estimated to be $87,360, and their related insurance and pension, totaling around $121,406. Those figures do not include general operating expenses for funnel, uniforms, et cetera.
“That’s a lot of numbers to digest,” he said.
He noted that Dagsboro does have the State health insurance plan only for the officers. He noted that going on the State’s pension plan was a contentious argument within Frankford and the reason one officer left a few years ago; however, he said if the two towns were to join forces, that would be a non-negotiable.
“I can’t in good conscience have two officers working for me that don’t have the State pension and four that do,” he said. “That would be a requirement.”
He said he believes Frankford has had some misconceptions regarding the State’s pension plan. He noted that, while once a town joins they are “locked into it,” if the town is without officers, they aren’t paying into the pension.
“You can’t pay a pension on no income,” he said, adding that the pension is based on the salary.
“The whole purpose of this is to make things mutually beneficial for both towns and both departments.”
Councilman Marty Presley asked if joining forces would affect grants available to the towns. Toomey said they would not, as technically the two departments would be kept as two separate entities.
Resident Kathy Murray asked why Dagsboro is requesting a three-year contract, as opposed to a shorter test period.
“One year doesn’t give enough time to get feet wet,” responded Toomey.
He said reporting would go through a commission made up of each town’s leadership (Dagsboro’s mayor and Frankford’s council president) and Toomey.
“I don’t want to report to five different individuals,” he said. “The mayor is what we have. I’d like to keep that integrity.”
Resident Jerry Smith asked why the five council members could not delegate to their officers.
“These council members know the people of this town. They know more of what’s going on that what you would know… Is it possible to have two people in command — one on Frankford and one from Dagsboro?”
“That’s known as ‘chaos,’” said Toomey, adding that, if there’s an issue in town, he would be the person to notify — not a singular officer — so he could address all the officers as to how the issue should be handled.
The two towns have agreed they will hold two public meetings — one in Frankford and one in Dagsboro — to discuss the idea and get input from residents.