Rock Hill to get results of police study

The future of the Rock Hill Police force will come into clearer focus Thursday when city leaders hear the results of a five-month staffing study.

In a presentation open to the public at City Hall, a consulting firm will make recommendations on whether the city should hire more police officers, revamp its chain of command or shrink patrol zones so officers won't have to cover too much territory.

The firm, Carroll Buracker & Associates of Virginia, spent five months interviewing local officials, speaking with business owners and poring over crime numbers to project current and future staffing needs.

The City Council put up $78,750 to hire Buracker in June.

Police Chief John Gregory has said his 66-member patrol unit is stretched thin and needs more manpower to keep pace with Rock Hill's expanding city limits.

For two years, the chief has wanted six additional officers included in the budget.

But in June, Gregory supported hiring a consultant, saying a study would paint a clearer picture of needs so money could be targeted at the most pressing priorities.

"I think we need a road map," he said then. "To come before you every year and say we need six, 12 officers is like a shock. If we know ahead of time what we should look like, I think we can plan a lot better."

Some residents are pushing for a greater police presence in neighborhoods around downtown, where crime rates are higher than elsewhere.

"We really have a city that hasn't elected to let its police force keep up with the growth of the city," said Lonnie Harvey, chairman of the Weed & Seed steering committee. "People in the urban core feel that way. People on the outskirts may not. They may not see some of the issues related to crime."

That outlook likely will be a focal point during Thursday's workshop, which starts at 4 p.m. in Room 373 on the second floor of City Hall.