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Police study to be revised before council reviews it

Several citizens last night took the podium at the Sunnyside City Council meeting, expressing their desire for a review of the recent police study conducted by MGT of America.

Councilman Jason Raines said the report was recently discussed during a public safety subcommittee meeting during which it was stated there are flaws in the study.

"It appears the consultants will be reviewing the study to clarify errors," he said.

The citizens, during the unscheduled appearances segment of the meeting, said they believe there is plenty to discuss in regard to the report.

"It was worth every penny spent," said Melba Fujuira.

Former Councilwoman Carol Stone said she believes the city benefits from the study, which cost less than an economic development study conducted a few years ago.

Of the police study, she said the police department has had years without any oversight. "It has had years and years of the good ole boys."

Stone said the study was worthwhile and she believes it is time the city council takes action.

"If you've got dirt, you need to vacuum it," she said.

John Rodriguez is a former police officer and he spoke to the council, stating, "The MGT report reflects upon the leadership, of which there's none."

Pete Sartin went a little further, stating he believes the report should be reviewed soon.

There were some who commended the police department last night.

Greg Flocchini said he has witnessed changes as a result of the police department's resolve to eliminate gangs.

He said he has seen police officers more engaged in preventing criminal activity.

He also congratulated Raines and Councilman Craig Hicks for being elected, stating he doesn't believe either of them has "an agenda."

Jim Stevens spoke to the council, stating he believes the police department has been "undergoing an assault from the local newspaper."

He said the police department has been responsible for a drop in criminal gang activity and he believes the police force should be commended for its efforts.

Later a discussion between the council members ensued.

Councilman Nick Paulakis is a member of the public safety subcommittee and said there have been some impressive statistics regarding the police department's efforts to combat criminal activity.

Notable, he said, is the increase in the number of drug arrests and weapons seizures.

Paulakis also said the compliance with the crime-free rental housing program is now at more than 72 percent.

Deputy Police Chief Phil Schenck said his department is committed to providing the council with monthly reports, detailing efforts of the police.

He said a report was recently submitted, highlighting a decrease in the number of shootings in Sunnyside.

He said residential burglaries, too, have been reduced by 48 percent and drug offenses show an increase because more arrests are being made.

"Drug offenses went through the roof," said Schenck, stating the belief is that the activity is not on the incline, but more criminals are being arrested due to the gang unit's efforts at catching the criminals.

"We are fully staffed now and overtime has been reduced greatly," said Schenck.

He and Police Chief Ed Radder were asked if they had been provided an opportunity to review the MGT report before it was released to the public.

Radder said he was provided a preliminary draft, but not a copy of the report that immediately preceded the final release.

He said he has been in communication with the consultants involved in the study and there are revisions being considered.

Radder also said some of the recommendations released in the copy of the study are currently being implemented.

Councilman Don Vlieger commended the police department for the reduction in the number of homicides between 2010 and 2011.

Councilwoman Theresa Hancock said there is much to be learned from the MGT report, which she noted was conducted by a neutral party.

Vlieger said the city council should not conduct its public review of the report until revisions have been completed and an interim city manager has been hired.

Councilman Jim Restucci said he would like to know what revisions are needed before he could decide whether or not the review should be postponed.

After further discussion, a consensus was reached and the council decided to await a revised report before proceeding with a review.

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