RIDGELEY – Ridgeley police officers will continue being paid one hour per shift for physical training following a heated special meeting of the town council Thursday.

By Ronda Wertman

Tribune Correspondent

RIDGELEY – Ridgeley police officers will continue being paid one hour per shift for physical training following a heated special meeting of the town council Thursday.

Police chief Jake Ryan was not on hand for the regular December meeting of the Ridgeley mayor and council where an impromptu executive session was called concerning his department.

Commissioner Tanya Ryan called for the executive session, which has since been deemed improper due to the lack of a second by another commissioner.

“I was asked if I knew we were paying the new officer to work out,” said commissioner Duke Lantz, noting that at the time he did not agree since it had not been a policy in the past.

At that time, both Ryan, Lantz and commissioner Nick Imes were opposed to paying the officers for physical training.

“I’m kind of in favor of it,” said mayor Mark Jones, who also serves as police commissioner, noting that officers “aren’t making any money.”

“In order to keep them here we need to give them some perks,” he added, noting that the town benefits and health coverage are minimal.

In October the council hired officer Ed Pfaff knowing that he would have to attend the West Virginia Police Academy in the coming year.

At that time, Chief Ryan issued a directive that each officer can spend one hour each shift on physical training.

“I was never asked about this policy,” he said, adding that the council has no authority over his policies.

“The results speak for themselves,” said Chief Ryan, noting that with the new officer the town has been able to provide additional coverage.

“We are the lowest paid police department in the county,” he said, assuring the council that they are getting their money’s worth with payroll totaling $13,000 and officers bringing in $11,000 in ticket money.

“To say that time management is out of whack is an insult to me,” Chief Ryan said. “I was hired to run my department as I saw fit. I can account for what we do out there hour by hour.”

Since October officers have made 12 arrests and issued 99 citations, with notable calls including removing five unlicensed and four driving under the influence drivers from the road, six domestic violence investigations and two protective orders served, four warrants served, two breaking and entering, two destructions of property, two unattended deaths and one overdose where Narcan was administered saving the patient’s life.

“We were looking at why are we paying time to do training when we didn’t know anything about it,” said commissioner Ryan. “It is the town’s money.”

Chief Ryan said that he had spoken to Jones about the policy and then holding up the police policies and procedures manual asked the council if any of them had read it, to which the answer was no.

“Getting paid to work out is part of the new way,” said Jones of the practice which has been implemented by area county and state law enforcement agencies. “I told him from day one, run your department.” 
“The numbers are great. You are doing what we are paying you to do,” said Lantz. “To me getting in shape is something he (Pfaff) had to do to go to the academy.”

Chief Ryan noted that the directive for the physical training is for all officers, not just Pfaff.

“We aren’t a town with unlimited resources to do as we please. We do struggle to pay the bills sometimes. As a town that is always watching the budget, as a council person I like to know when it involves expenditures,” said Lantz of the police policies.

“The problem was in the way it was presented to me,” he added. “There needs to be checks and balances and I had no idea what was going on. An explanation would have been better.”

“If I had been asked for an explanation, this (special meeting) may not have come about,” said Chief Ryan. “Nobody came to me to ask why.”

“I want to make sure that we are doing things the right way and for the right reasons,” Lantz added.

“I spoke to him way back about it and told him to go ahead,” said Jones, noting that he doesn’t bring every little concern with the police department to the council.

“The police department polices are stricter than the town’s,” Chief Ryan said. “Nowhere along the line do I see the need to ask you for your approval.”

“It makes sense why did made the decision that we did,” said Imes, adding that the council didn’t know about how it was approved when they met in executive session at the regular meeting.

“In the back of our mind we have to keep the police officers happy,” he added asking that if a policy has “a clear financial impact that we just be made aware of it.”

“The biggest issue is communication and can we afford it,” Lantz said, noting that some federal employees get paid time for fitness, but that they must keep a log of what they did.

“A lot of overtime is spent taking people to the jail,” said Jones, noting that officers must transport violators to Keyser, traveling Route 28 and 46 and then to Augusta.

Reviewing the numbers, Lantz said that it is about 30 hours a month in overtime.

“We do it (physical training) at the beginning of our shift so it doesn’t attribute to overtime,” said Chief Ryan. “If we hadn’t been paid to work out, the overtime would still be the same.”

“Basically I should have told you what was going on,” concluded Jones as the council agreed 2-1 to continue paying officers for one hour of training per shift and asking that they keep a log of what they are doing.

Commissioner Ryan remained in opposition to the decision.