Oskaloosa City Council says it will investigate lack of police reports
by Dennis Sharkey
The Oskaloosa City Police Department has little to show in records of activity which is now being looked at by the City Council.
Last month the Independent made a records request with Oskaloosa City Clerk Patty Hamm for all of the standard offense reports for the year 2011 and all reports that have been filed this year.
Hamm provided the Independent with a total of five Kansas Standard Offense Reports. Two of the five reports were filed in early 2011. The other three reports were filed this year. All of the reports were filed by police officer Paul Bollinger.
In contrast the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department has filed hundreds of reports from activity within the city limits of Oskaloosa.
In this week’s county sheriff’s report officers responded to three reports of theft, four reports of a disturbance, two reports of criminal damage to property and a reported battery in the city of Oskaloosa.
Attempts to contact Oskaloosa Police Chief Rick Jones were unsuccessful. A message was delivered to Jones on Monday but as of press time he had not responded.
City Attorney Mike Hayes said city standard offense reports are only for misdemeanors and that the city has no jurisdiction over felonies or juvenile offenses.
Jones works full-time as a Sheriff’s Department deputy and is considered a part-time police chief. Some council members said Jones’ work could be overlapping.
Last year the Independent reported on a lack of city court activity. From the period of January 2011 through June 2011 the city court processed four cases with one of the cases beging a carryover from the prior year.
This reporter presented other information to the council on opinions, concerns and issues that have been expressed to the Independent in private conversations in person, via the phone or through letters about various concerns with the city including the police department. The council was told that all individuals want to remain anonymous because of a fear of retaliation.
The reaction by council members was mixed. Councilwoman Kathy Griffin said she has been confronted by citizens with similar stories wanting to remain private as well.
Councilman Gary Bryant, who was running the meeting in the absence of Mayor Mike Paavola, said he was having a hard time seeing a problem. He said if citizens have an issue they need to bring it before the council.
“Obviously there’s nothing we can do about it unless somebody comes and says something,” Bryant said.
Bryant said the council could check into the reports and wanted to move the meeting along but was stopped by Councilwoman Emily Malsbury.
“I want to hear what he has to say,” Malsbury said.
It was reiterated that the citizens wanted to remain private because of a fear. This reporter told the council that Jones has made it known through channels that the Independent should steer clear of him.
Bryant asked this reporter if the feeling was that a threat was being made. The Independent takes no stance on Jones’ comments to other Sheriff’s deputies but felt the information should factor in with the rest of what was being presented.
Bryant accused this reporter of having a personal ax to grind.
“The problem I’m having right now is it seems there’s a personal thing going on,” Bryant said. “You’re making some allegations. If you want to put it into the legal realm go ahead and put it in the legal realm.
“You’re giving us second hand information,” Bryant added. “I wouldn’t consider it facts.”
Griffin disagreed with Bryant and said the issue should be looked at.
“I still think it’s something we should look at whether it’s second hand or it’s a citizen coming in here,” Griffin said.
Bryant was asked about comments Jones allegedly made to Paavola after Councilman John Norman and Malsbury paid a visit to Jones. Paavola reported at the next meeting that Jones was upset by the visit. Bryant said he didn’t believe the incident factors into the issues either.
“That’s what was in the paper,” Bryant said. “That’s what was reported at the meeting. I don’t know that I think that’s an issue on competency or whether or not the fellow is doing his job or not.”
The discussion lasted about 10 minutes of the meeting that went on for nearly four hours.
“I think we’ve kicked this thing around enough,” Bryant said
The Sheriff’s Department files KSORs for a number of offenses from misdemeanor offenses to felonies. Reports are also filed when officers are sent on a call but do not have a respondent. Such calls would involve taking a report, checking on a report of a prowler or suspicious activity, animal calls or a lost or stolen tag. Some vehicle accidents also have reports filed.
Until a meeting last month Jones had not attended an Oskaloosa City Council meeting in 20 months. No written activity report has been presented to the council in the last two plus years.
In other actions:
• The council instructed Hayes to begin work on a lease for the city’s police department. Last month the city closed on the sale of the old Harvey’s Hardware building to the Jefferson County Memorial Hospital Foundation. The hospital is opening a pharmacy in the building and will not be using the back and basement portion of the building. The hospital has offered the space to the city for $1 annually for the police department.
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