Franklin police force has tough job but does it well

Published 2:10 am Saturday, April 4, 2009

* First in a series

Recently, I had the privilege of hearing and viewing one of the most outstanding presentations that I have encountered in a long time.

Chief Phil Hardison presented a message regarding the awesome responsibilities of the Franklin Police Department in our present-day environment. To see and understand the complexity of providing safety for the citizens of Franklin is breathtaking. It is an overwhelming task for the approximately 30 individuals who put their lives on the line daily.

Since that experience, the chief has revised his program to include additional information from former Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell, which the chief presented to an overflow audience at the Franklin City Council meeting on March 23.

The Police Department’s primary duty is to be a security blanket for the lives of all citizens of Franklin. It appears to me that Chief Hardison has done a credible job of retaining a number of fine officers who are dedicated to making this department better trained, better equipped and better accepted throughout the city.

Since his arrival in Franklin, he has had a huge turnover because of retirements, officers leaving for better pay in other jurisdictions, incompatibility and various other reasons. I believe he feels that the newer members of the organization are compatible with his desires for an excellent and efficient police force who bring a sense of dedication and loyalty to make this a very cohesive unit.

Often, we hear complaints about police not showing up in certain areas as much as others, but one must stop and think about it realistically. If you have a business or home in a lower crime area, isn’t it much more important for the officers to help those areas with a much higher crime level so that those individuals and their families feel more secure?

It would be nice if we could have officers check every individual business for shoplifting, theft and unlocked doors, while at the same time patrol our streets and remove those who are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Along this line of thinking, wouldn’t it be great if they could stop all those who are speeding or driving carelessly so our streets would be extraordinarily safe?

The chief expressed great concern regarding the presence of gangs and drugs in our city and the inordinate time and planning it takes to hopefully eliminate them. He showed video that plainly provided what we can expect if we don’t stop this as quickly as possible.

Even though the video was not made yesterday, it clearly conveyed the message that is typical of today’s extremely serious problems. Obviously, these officers have to continually assess where their services are most needed at any given moment, and certainly gang behavior has to be at the top of the agenda.

In addition to these functions, officers are constantly called upon to be in court to testify in cases where they are the arresting officer or where they have first hand information as a result of being a party to an arrest with other officers. In addition to traffic cases, they are there to testify in homicides, suicides, shootings, domestic problems and an assortment of cases where laws are broken. This often means that these officers may be in court after working the night shift, depending upon the schedules for the cases to be heard.

Citizens and police departments would benefit greatly from the courts, judges, defense attorneys and commonwealth attorneys if they could work with the police officers by getting them out of court and back on the job. An example of this is keeping them in court all day, yet not testifying after having worked all night, which causes that officer to have to take the next night off, thus eliminating that officer from the street.

It might impress you to know that in the year 2008, there were 19,413 calls for service by our police and a total of 1,009 arrests with a total of 1,628 traffic and criminal summonses.

It must interest all citizens to know that much advanced training and new techniques are a part of every officer’s career in this department, while at the same time much is expected of them to be of service to community organizations and special activities. You will see and read about their involvement in a future column.