Despite the numerous issues swirling in the borough, Dwyer has tried to stay focused on his mission of improving the police department.
“He has exceeded all of the goals we set when he was originally hired, and he helped to implement and correct many things we were told were lacking in our police department,” council Vice President Laurie Malka wrote in an email to Patch on Tuesday.
Dwyer detailed some of those changes he feels have benefitted the borough.
Walking the beat
In an effort to make officers more responsive to community needs, Dwyer has instituted walking patrols.
“I’ve got them out of the cars, walking in the business district,” he said. “The average officer probably walks two times on each shift. It gives you an increased feeling of security when police are visible in the community.”
In addition, the officers check on bars at closing time and, when pharmacies in Castle Shannon and Mt. Lebanon were hit by robberies, Dwyer asked them to talk to Dormont pharmacy managers to let them know there would be additional patrols.
Dwyer said to make Dormont’s patrol cars more visible to the community, he changed the color on three of the five vehicles to a classic black-and-white paint job. He also has put a new police car in next year’s budget as two of the cars are “in bad shape.”
Dwyer said, upon his arrival, police overtime pay was “out of control.”
In an effort to cut those costs, which have resulted in some officers having annual incomes of more than $100,000, Dwyer implemented a 12-hour schedule. He has the officers split into three-man platoons working the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift or 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift.
Within a 14-day period, the 12 officers will work seven days and have off seven days and the shift length results in less overtime pay. The average officer has 182.5 pass days and, with sick and vacation time added in, that adds up to about 208 days a year.
“Every second weekend, you have a three-day weekend,” Dwyer explained. “What this tends to do is cause less sick time abuse.”
He had told police that if the new scheduling didn’t work out, they could switch back. Since the new schedule has been in effect, a few officers who were turned down for overtime have filed grievances, Dwyer said.
But when he sent an email to officers last week asking if they want to return to the old schedule, half replied that they want to keep the 12-hour schedule, he said.
Officers carried their weapons certification cards with them, but Dwyer felt that police should have a Dormont Police Department identification card.
“All public employees should have ID cards,” Dwyer said, including school and hospital staffs and all borough employees.
Though the cost is generally about $35 a card, Dwyer was able to have cards made at the county police academy at no cost to the borough.
Council voted on Monday to overturn Lloyd’s veto of the new parking ticket ordinance. Dwyer said he discovered that citations for state violations were being written up as borough tickets so the borough obtained the revenue. He accused Lloyd of supporting the practice.
Early on, Dwyer was shocked to open the trunk of a police car and find it empty, devoid of safety equipment he said should be standard in all police vehicles—flares, fire extinguishers, gas masks, helmets and safety vests.
“I’m not faulting previous people, but that’s what you’re supposed to have,” Dwyer said. “You’ve got to be prepared.”
Since then, the department received a federal grant to purchase all new bulletproof vests for each officer.
“Nobody was worried where the safety equipment was in the police car,” Dwyer said. “But they were worried about badges?”
While no one knows the outcomes of Ross’ suit against council or the final ruling on his civil service case in Common Pleas Court, Dwyer has his future planned.
Because his wife still works, he’ll go from being interim chief to the “house guy.” But he plans to spend more time fishing, meeting up with friends and spending time with his grandchildren, who range in age from 2 to 21.
And while he might have taken the heat in Dormont, it won’t deter him from vacationing in tropical Jamaica next year.