Columbiana chief backs part-time drug officer

COLUMBIANA – Police Chief Tim Gladis no longer has reservations about putting an officer on the county drug task force (DTF), and suggested council accept the $10,000 being offered by county commissioners.

Commissioners began offering money to municipalities a few weeks ago to boost participation on the force. The money is available to commissioners in the form of tax revenue from Ohio’s first casinos, and they are offering $10,000 a year for part-time participation and $20,000 for full-time participation.

Columbiana had an officer on the task force full-time until 2009, the year Gladis was hired as chief. Gladis pulled the veteran officer from the force mostly for financial reasons, but also because he wasn’t pleased with how little the local department was getting in return.

At that time the department was paying the full-time salary, plus benefits, of the officer who was on the force 17 years prior to his being removed.

Gladis was also not pleased with the former leadership of the DTF.

His recent hesitancy had nothing to do, however, with the state investigation currently under way following the discovery of possible financial irregularities that resulted in the ousting of the former director, he said Tuesday.

“We weren’t even participating then, so it had nothing to do with us. I’m pleased they are investigating and I hope it turns out to be simple accounting errors,” he said.

His concerns largely focused on the department’s cost of putting an officer on the force, and whether doing so would affect local coverage, he said.

Committing an officer to the task force means taking that time away from local policing, he explained.

He said those concerns were eased after recent conversations with county Prosecutor Robert Herron, Sheriff Ray Stone and the task force’s new director, Lt. Brian McLaughlin.

“Having met those individuals and having some confidence in new leadership at the task force, I found I could put a person out there two days a week, or part time, 20 hours total, without affecting our coverage at all. We have a pretty strong part-time program,” he said.

Under the agreement that must be passed by council prior to DTF participation, any municipality accepting the $10,000 must commit an officer to working 20 hours a week.

Gladis said the agreement is “fair enough” and not “overly restrictive.”

He also said a Columbiana officer has already shown an interest in participating.

“I recommend we try it for a year and see how it works,” he said.

A resolution will be presented to council at the next regular meeting. Council members didn’t weigh in on the matter Tuesday.