Selectmen get WPPD update

The West Point Board of Selectmen discuss issues during a recent meeting at City Hall.
Staff Writer

In three months since taking over as chief, Avery Cook already is putting his stamp on the West Point Police Department.

From report writing to training to up-to-date policies, the department is getting an upgrade, Selectmen were told this week.

"We've made great strides in 90 days, but we've still got a long way to go. But we've got the process under way," Assistant Chief Kennedy Meador told the board.

Meador provided the update because Chief Avery Cook was out of town at a conference.

Cook was named chief in September after former chief Tim Brinkley retired. An 18-year law enforcement veteran and West Point native, Cook spent the first 13 years of his career with the WPPD, rising to assistant chief. He went to the Clay County Sheriff's Department for five years before being named chief.

One of the department's most immediate needs was staffing and Cook has hired several new officers to get to budgeted levels. He still wants to hire at least four more so five officers will be on duty on each shift. A recent rash of illnesses had several officers out with the flu, putting a strain on staffing at times, Meador said.

In addition to getting officers, the department has initiated its K9 unit with officer Artie Cade and his dog "Kenzo" starting five weeks of training this week. Officer Alex Jackson also has earned his DUI instructor certification, giving the department another tool to push safety.

"When we have a DUI stop, he'll respond when he's on duty or if need be, will be on call, so other officers can continue patrolling," Meador explained, noting Jackson's car still needs to be equipped with video equipment to record arrests.

"DUI cases are easily lost in court if all the proper documentation isn't in place," the assistant chief added.

All the department's other officers are DUI certified and can handle arrests when Jackson is off duty, but having him in place improves the overall department, Meador noted. Because he is a certified instructor, Jackson also can do additional training with other officers.

The DUI officer and the K9 unit are part of Cook's overhaul of the department's standard operating procedures.

"We've got to have policies in place for those. We've also got to have a policy or response to resistance, vehicle pursuits, use of Tasers and chemical sprays, defensive tactics, all those things. The response to resistance term sounds better than use of force," Meador stated.

Even basic things like report writing are getting attention.

"We want them to be more professional. If these are things we are going to put out in the public, we need to be professional," said Meador, who already has had a training session with officers. "That professionalism is what we want in everything we do."

In other business, Selectmen:

-- Were notified the city will open bids ay 10 a.m. Jan. 26 on an estimated $150,000 project to line about 5,000 feet of sewer lines along Church Hill Road. The city plans to line the existing 70-plus-year-old ceramic and concrete pipe with a PVC liner that should last for "years and years and years," according to Water and Light Department Director Boodro Marsac. The project could take as long as a month. The work won't disrupt service to any properties, although residents may be asked to monitor their water and sewer usage at times. Funds will come from Light and Water's operating revenues.

The work is similar to that completed two years ago along Main and Commerce streets. The Church Hill project is a little trickier and even more important because the pipes are buried 13 feet. Having to actually replace the pipes would be even more costly because of the depth and the amount of pavement that would have to be dug up and replaced;

-- Approved paying the city's $1,862.63 share of the Code Red emergency alert system. The county is paying $1,536.46. The total is based on the county's population of 20,634;

-- Agreed to sell retired police officer Stanley McGee his Glock .40-caliber service weapon for $1;

-- Learned a power outage two weeks covering about 10 square blocks in downtown was caused by a 50-year-old conductor that burned out.