When the economy turns bad, communities are faced with tough choices.
One of those choices for the city of Powell was to impose a hiring freeze for this fiscal year. Under that policy, employees who leave their jobs will not be replaced.
Recently, the Powell Police Department became the first city agency to feel the impact of that policy with the resignation of one officer. His departure, coupled with the deployment of another officer with the Wyoming National Guard, has left the department two officers short of its ideal strength.
Chief Tim Feathers has said the situation is a normal part of the life of the department, and the department can adjust in the short term, but in the long term, it will become more difficult.
Under normal circumstances, public safety likely will not be compromised, but emergencies do arise, and there will be fewer officers to deal with them. The smaller force will mean longer hours for the officers and make it more difficult to cover for officers who are ill or on vacation. It likely will add to the stress of what already is a stressful job.
In the long term, it may not even save much money. As Mayor Scott Mangold noted, overtime costs could wipe out much of the savings from a hiring freeze.
Instituting a hiring freeze was the proper course of action given the uncertainty of the economy, but such a policy can't be set in stone. Our city leaders realize that, of course, and both Mangold and Feathers say they will be watching carefully to make sure public safety isn't compromised and that the morale of the police force is not damaged. Should that happen, Mangold has said the city would consider lifting the freeze and allow the hiring of another officer.
In the meantime, it is important for local citizens to support our law enforcement personnel. They have a tough job, and it's up to us not to make it any tougher.