Opinion

Consultant is good idea

In hiring a pricey consultant to assess the needs of the Rock Hill Police Department, the city risks paying nearly $80,000 to hear what it already knows. But it's a risk worth taking.

Police Chief John Gregory got unanimous approval last week for $78,750 to hire Carroll Buracker & Associates, a Virginia-based firm that will interview local officials and review crime statistics to project staffing needs as the city grows. Gregory said the firm came highly recommended by other police chiefs he talked with.

The decision to hire an outside consultant comes after Gregory's request, two years in a row, for six more officers. He said his 66-member patrol unit is stretched thin and can't keep pace with the growing population and the expansion of the city limits.

But Gregory is pleased at the prospect of bringing in a consultant to provide an unprejudiced assessment of what the department needs now and a projection of what it will need in coming years. Gregory also may be counting on the consultant to bolster his contention that the department needs more officers.

Again, though, the value of hiring a consultant is to get fresh input that both Gregory and city officials can use in planning ahead. Hiring six new officers would cost about $600,000 including squad cars and equipment, and the city does not want to commit to that before it can be sure the officers are needed.

Granted, $78,750 is not chicken feed. But, as Mayor Doug Echols notes, the consultant's findings will allow the city to forecast the city's needs rather than just adding people from year to year.

"It comes with a rationale," he said.

We suspect that the study will echo, to at least some degree, Gregory's belief that the department needs more officers. The chief, after all, has a good idea of where the problem areas are, how his officers are used and whether they are overburdened.

But the report also should provide a good road map for the city to follow as growth continues and the demands on law enforcement grow. All in all, we think it is a good investment.

IN SUMMARY

Consultant will examine the operation of the Rock Hill Police Department.

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