Fenwick officials to consider police agreement on Jan. 24

Fenwick Island’s town council heard from its own police chief last week, as well as two from surrounding towns, that a proposed mutual aid agreement would be beneficial for all three towns.

The agreement is an outgrowth of a less formal, shorter-term one between police departments in South Bethany, Ocean View and Fenwick Island that arose from a severe shortage of officers in South Bethany.

Town councils in South Bethany and Ocean View have already approved the document, which had also been reviewed and signed off on by town solicitors in the three towns.

Fenwick Island is the only town whose leaders have yet to vote on the agreement. Mayor Eugene Langan said after the Friday, Jan. 10, meeting that the issue of the agreement would be placed on the agenda for the next regular council meeting, on Jan. 24.

Fenwick Island Police Chief William Boyden told the council at the Jan. 10 meeting that the “bottom line” of the agreement is that officers in each of the towns signing on to it would have arrest powers in the other two towns. Each department’s officers would be sworn officers in each of the towns, Boyden explained.

The Fenwick Island chief said he feels the agreement could be beneficial in many ways, including helping other departments who might be dealing with illness moving through its department, making trips to Wilmington evidence facilities and drug labs less onerous, and providing backup for a department dealing with an unusually serious incident or crime.

He recalled one instance when the Fenwick police department was hit with a flu epidemic, and “I was working basically 70 hours straight,” while also dealing with the illness himself.

Fenwick Island Town Council Member Vicki Carmean, who has expressed concerns about the agreement, asked South Bethany Police Chief Jason Lovins, “Will you be asking our officers to go to your town and cover your streets?”

Lovins answered, simply, “No.”

Carmean also expressed concern about liability of officers responding outside their own departments, to which Boyden responded that each department’s insurance would cover any liabilities or damages incurred during a response.

Ocean View Police Chief Kenneth McLaughlin said the agreement would not really change the way his department has always responded to requests for help from Fenwick Island or surrounding towns.

“It’s nothing that we haven’t been doing for years,” except for the ability to arrest subjects in the other towns, he said.

Boyden assured the council that even if the council approves the agreement, the Town “can get out of it whenever they want,” if the council feels it isn’t working in Fenwick Island’s best interests.

Lovins said he sees Route 1 traffic issues as the biggest challenge for officers in the area. He called the mutual-aid agreement “a massive force multiplier with very little downside.”

McLaughlin said he thinks the agreement will also be helpful to the towns in the event of flooding and bad storms, from an emergency-management perspective.

By Kerin Magill
Staff Reporter