February 14, 2010

Falconville Police Strike out with Little Leaguers

Police Foot Patrols No More
By NightWriter357

February 1, 2010

(Falconville, CA) Coaches, umpires and some parents think it would be a bad call for Little League if Falconville police stop doing foot patrols during game season.

In lieu of the tentative budget cuts that would have an adverse affect on the police department as a whole, the chief of police, Toby Wanamaker says it’s just too expensive to continue walking patrols at games.

Instead, Wanamaker wants to provide game officials with walkie talkie radios that officers will be able to hear on the police scanners and respond accordingly.

If there is any trouble, officers could be there “within three to five minutes,” he said.

Although umpires and coaches are concerned with safety, Wanamaker says there isn’t much to worry about because officers rarely get involve with parents that get emotional and mouth off during the games.

Sandie Borowski has a son that plays on the Falconville Little League team. While she does admit that sometimes a few parents have gotten out of control, she doesn’t see this as the majority and is okay with Wanamaker’s alternative to foot patrols.

“The city can’t afford everything,” she says, and “Some of the umpires are making too big of a deal about this.”

Gary Schmitt, an umpire for Falconville Little League does not share that sentiment and has expressed his concerns about officers not being able to respond in a timely manner.

He recalled two weeks ago when an unruly parent was taken away by officers after running onto the field and shouting at a kid about a play.

Jon Buchholtz, the parent accused of doing this, declined any comment about the incident.

Questionable incidents such as this concern Schmitt who also remembers occasions when parents were boisterous and screamed obscenities in front of the children.

Finding it incomprehensive, he says, “This sort of thing just isn’t acceptable in youth sports; I can’t believe the city would actually consider compromising the safety of children.”

With a real possibility of umpires striking, an attempt to keep walking patrols viable could be doable “if the city would look at cutting other things from the budget,” says Schmitt, who is adamant about putting safety first.

In spite of the budget constraints and prior to the last city council meeting, members voted 5-0 in favor of a new city administrator to manage the city’s affairs. The new administrator, Joan Bell, a former farm manager that moved to Falconville five years ago has the task of preparing an annual budget, of which she already estimated a 13 percent decrease in funding for Park and Recreation departments, as well as cuts to Public Works, Police and Fire departments.

Elaine Hultquist, Director of Parks and Recreation is responsible for recreational activities at city parks and will likely weigh in on these cutbacks at the next council meeting on Feb. 2.

With Falconville police seeing no serious problems with parents at the Little League games it is no surprise that there is no conclusive data to determine the frequency of parental problems that have occurred in the past.

Another possible alternative to Falconville police foot patrols is to consider Neighborhood Resource Centers or Community Police Centers like those in Long Beach and Santa Monica, CA where community citizens take an active role in policing their neighborhoods.

Lieutenant Ken Schack, a retired Long Beach police officer, said “Most of the criminal activities that sometimes occur around parks don’t have much to do with the games themselves, in contrast, Schack said, “It is the people who frequent the area that have nothing to do with the games that sometimes cause the most trouble.”

The community centers are comprised of volunteers and usually one or two retired police officers that are paid staff. The centers act as a buffer for residents to work with the police on issues in their neighborhoods. Some concerns of citizens are the parks where their children frequent and school zone areas.

Schack says, “Sometimes people have a fear of going into their police department, so community police centers make it easy for people to come in and talk to us without directly calling the police.”

One police department is planning to implement part of their police work on foot. In January, the Baltimore Sun published an article, City putting police back on foot patrol that states the Baltimore police commissioner, Frederick Bealefeld is planning to use $10 million in federal grant money to hire more police officers after they’ve completed training.

According to the article, the commissioner goes on to state, “After they graduate, they’ll find themselves on foot instead of in a car.”

Knowing all of this and with budget restructuring, perhaps Falconville will finds a means to revive foot patrols at Little League games.

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