FORT WAYNE – Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards wants her liaison officer back.
For the past few years, a Fort Wayne police officer has occupied a spot in her office, serving as a go-between for her and the police department.
But a few weeks ago, the current liaison officer was pulled back to the department to serve with the detective bureau due to staffing issues, Chief Rusty York said Tuesday.
When staffing levels come back up in such a way that York can put the supervisory-level officer back, he plans to do so.
The liaison officer helped the prosecutors office gather missing information in cases they were reviewing, as well as helping to explain the myriad police procedures and policies and how those affect the investigations and police actions.
They basically serve as a problem-solver and an evidence-gatherer, she said.
Richards worries about the effect on how her office investigates and handles cases, especially with the number of homicides this year. The countys 41 homicides are three short of the record of 44 set in 1997.
I think, when you have 41 homicides; this is certainly not the time to be pulling a liaison officer, Richards said. We need all the tools we can get, at this point. I think taking away my liaison officer is clearly not going to be helpful.
York believes that no case will be adversely affected, adding that the position itself has only existed the past few years.
The decision to eliminate for the time being is strictly based on personnel levels.
We didnt have that position available to us anymore, York said.
Part of the staffing issue is based on an agreement with the Fraternal Order of Police concerning the number of supervisors who are members of the union.
That agreement, York said, requires the department to promote more patrol officers to supervisors, something it cant do now.
We cant take any more bodies off the street, he said.
York said the former liaison officer is back in the detective bureau, handling everything from property crimes to homicides.
Im confident that this movement is not going to negatively impact any ongoing homicide investigations, he said. Weve always operated lean.
In 2012, the department had 435 sworn officers and a budget of more than $50 million, according to its annual report.
The department is in the middle of recruiting more officers, York said.
For now, Richards thinks, the liaison officer will be missed.
Things are not going to move as smoothly. Things arent going to move as quickly, she said. It was a great way to get all of the issues resolved that come up every day, so that means I will be continually bothering the police chief for things I would have gone to my liaison officer for.