Hillsboro Mayor Drew Hastings said Tuesday that he has directed Hillsboro Police Chief Todd Whited to utilize reserve police officers to help tackle the drug problem in the city, “especially heroin.”
In a press release, Hastings also said he is exploring the formation of a Citizen Liaison Group to “provide community input and let citizens interact with our department to better understand the issues facing our police force.”
The mayor said the effort “will also help our police department to better understand the concerns of our community.”
Hastings said later that the police department has six reserve officers, mainly utilized for special events at venues like Southern State Community College or during the Festival of the Bells. He said a conversation with Fred Beery, the city law director, led him to consider augmenting the police force by more frequently utilizing reserve officers.
“I’ve left it up to the chief to utilize them as he thinks best,” said Hastings. “These officers are normally utilized for event and venue duty, but can be called to assist in more serious circumstances such as the one our city faces” with drugs.
Hastings said the reason for a citizen liaison group is to get more grassroots input on the drug problem and other issues facing the city. He said he is considering asking council members to identify residents from each ward who might bring forward ideas and share concerns.
“I think it would be good for the police department to hear what citizens have on their minds,” said the mayor.
Whited said Tuesday that utilizing reserve officers can help improve the department’s visibility, and he was exploring ways they might be used to the best advantage. But he said that reserve officers are volunteers who have full-time jobs. He said there is no substitute for a full-time drug investigator, which the department has not had for several months.
“My goal is to get a full-time drug officer,” said the chief.
He said all police officers can make arrests when they discover drugs in traffic stops or through other means, but an officer dedicated to drug investigations is more effective in eradicating drugs from the streets.
Whited said he is open to the mayor’s citizen liaison group.
“It shows transparency,” he said, along with opening the lines of communication and providing an opportunity to educate the public about police initiatives.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.