Covington police will increase their presence and work proactively in the wake of a night of violence last week, Covington Police Chief Buddy Lewis said Tuesday.
Last Wednesday night, four people were shot and four active crime scenes worked during a shooting spree that lasted two hours.
At a regularly-scheduled public safety committee meeting, Lewis announced changes in the department to support what he believes is an aggressive stance.
“More boots on the ground” was the clear theme of the meeting with Lewis and his command staff outlining five new things they're doing to help fight crime.
Moving from 8 to 10
First, the patrol division will switch from 8-hour to 10-hour shifts on Friday, March 1. The benefit to the public will be periods of overlap where officers from both shifts will be on the streets.
“This basically puts more officers on the streets,” said Sgt. Andrew Hefner. “It will double the amount of officers during peak times.”
“There’s no way you can have eight cars on the street and not make a difference,” said Capt. Jay Black. “The only way that can happen is if we’re not doing our job.”
For officers, the benefit of working 10s is working four days and having three days off. This, along with a recently-enacted $3,000 bonus for certified officers, could help with recruitment.
The sheriff’s office went to 10-hour shifts several months ago and, according to Black, it could work in Covington as long as the department’s roster stays near full at 24.
Hiring two new officers
Being fully-staffed, however, has been a problem. Lewis reported Tuesday in the five years he’s been chief, there have only been two weeks where they have operated as such.
They are full for the moment, but by Friday three officers will be leaving for a deployment with the National Guard.
Due to being understaffed, the department is already over its $251,000 overtime budget with five months still left in the fiscal year.
While the guard members are away, the city is legally obligated to retain them and pay 1/3 of their salary.
The remaining 2/3, for the remainder of this fiscal year, will fund the creation of two new positions, the board voted Tuesday.
Hanson said to fund the positions next fiscal year, some of the funds allocated for overtime will be redirected to their salaries.
Another special unit
Lewis also announced the creation, or resurrection, of a special unit focusing on gang crimes and information.
A former officer will be returning in the coming weeks and, once that happens, the unit will begin operating.
In addition to the change in shifts and addition of two new officers, Lewis will being crime-mapping again and has members of his command staff working the street.
“Our main focus is to not have other incidents like we had the other night,” he said. “You’re going to see different Covington and we’re going to be aggressive.”
Holding 50 pages of criminal history on seven people he believes could be involved in last week’s shooting, Lewis said the criminal justice system needs to be reformed as well. He is frustrated with seemingly-lenient punishment in the judicial system.
“It’s not that we’re not doing what we’re supposed to, this shows we are,” he said, fanning the pages for emphasis, “We’re still having to do with these people on the streets I’m just telling the truth.”
No one has yet been arrested in connection with the shootings last week.
Lewis is planning a Neighborhood Watch meeting at the Covington Civic Center at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 19.