Police chief says department in dire need of extra officers

Assistant chief also addresses the board about the situation


Sparta city officials were presented with a plea from Police Chief Nick Dunn during their Oct. 19 board meeting about the need for more officers.

“We are very, very, very in need of extra people,” Dunn told the mayor and aldermen. “We are here to keep the community safe. My job is to take care of the community but also to take care of the officers. We have a good group of officers that are like a family, and we help each other out, but it’s getting harder and harder to cover.”

Dunn, along with Brent Copeland, assistant chief, had put together some reports that included the number of days officers were having to work overtime or cover shifts that weren’t their normally assigned shifts.

“We have 375 vacation days to cover a year, not counting sick days and personal days,” Copeland said. “We had one guy recently who had to work 12 days straight.”

Copeland said officers are scheduled four, 12-hour shifts a week. However, the amount of time officers are now having to work has increased.

“Call volume is increasing, and, when we have a big incident, it takes everyone working to cover that and leaves the rest of the community uncovered,”  Copeland said. “The safety of our officers is becoming an issue.”

Copeland went on to say that some of the city’s officers aren’t available to work extra shifts as they are having to work second jobs to supplement the pay they receive from the city, and that is increasing the number of overtime hours other officers are having to work.

“We’ve seen this need for a couple of years,” Copeland said.

While Dunn had come to the meeting asking the board to look into the possibility of adding some reserve officers to the city’s police department to help with covering the extra shifts, mayor Jerry Lowery suggested they set up a work session to go over all of the numbers they were presented by Dunn and Copeland.

“I’m intrigued by the numbers with the overtime pay,” the mayor said. “There’s a possibility that it could be in our best interest to simply add another officer on staff.”

The mayor asked Dunn and Copeland to work out a recommendation for staffing as well as a recommendation for adjustment in pay scale as they also told the members of the city’s governing board that officers were leaving to take positions at other departments in other cities whose pay scales were higher to keep from having to work second jobs.

Other items on the agenda for the Oct. 19 meeting included approving the bid of $89 per hour for tree trimming from Big & Tall for the city’s electric department.

“That is lower than what we are currently paying,” Lowery told the board.

Also approved was the purchase of a new garbage truck, something the city needed with the continual repairs that have been needed to the current truck and the number of times that the trash pick-up route has had to be interrupted over the past year. The truck, which will cost the city $315,900, was listed as ready to be delivered.

“We had budgeted the ARPA money for a new HVAC system and roof [at city hall], but the roof came in a lot less than we had predicted, and we are going to postpone the HVAC,” city administrator Tonya Tindle told the board members.

In other business, the board:

  • authorized the solicitation of bids for a truck load of 8 cubic yards and 200 Toter residential containers for the Solid Waste Department
  • approved the hiring recommendation of Kevin Tayse for the position of street laborer
  • approved the hiring recommendation of Darrell Haston for the position of truck driver for the street department
  • approved tax changes for Ford Motor Company-Tooling, Brady Printing, and U.S. Bank National Associate
  • discussed creating a set 5K route that would eliminate the need for closing intersections for organizations who would like to obtain parade permits. This would also eliminate the need for extra police presence and overtime hours.

The next meeting of Sparta Board of Mayor and Aldermen will be 5 p.m., Nov. 2, 2023. The city livestreams meetings and keeps recordings available via their YouTube channel for residents who cannot attend but would like to review the meeting.       


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