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TOO FEW BADGES ON THE BEAT IN OGDEN

John Heiss has picked apart, prodded and poked around 65 different police stations in the Western United States over the past 15 years. And Ogden's patrol division is the most understaffed he's seen.

And that means residents are waiting longer and longer for officers to arrive on most calls.An audit of the police department released at a City Council work session Thursday said officers had 58,000 calls for service in 1994.

That number, the report said, places Ogden "significantly above" demand levels in comparable cities.

The number of calls to police last year equaled 86 percent of the population calling police once. In similar cities, that number typically was between 30 percent and 50 percent.

The result is an "understaffed and over-resourced" patrol division.

"If you want to know if you're getting your money's worth out of the police, you're getting more than your money's worth," said Heiss, a consultant with David M. Griffith & Associates.

The firm and Citygate Associates were paid $35,000 by the city to conduct a six-month audit of the police department.

Among its findings:

- Ogden is 27 percent above the national average in serious crimes for cities in the 50,000 to 70,000 population range.

- Because call demand is high, expansion of community policing can't be achieved until more officers are hired.

- Typical police response time to crimes-in-progress calls are five minutes or less in medium-size cities. Ogden is at 6.5 minutes.

- On lower-priority calls, Ogden responds in an average of 44 minutes, compared with 30 minutes or less in comparable cities.

- The department is 15 officers short of the 61 required to spend 35 percent of a shift dedicated to patrol. That's the minimum level needed to address the problems of call overload and slow response times.

- The department is 26 officers short of the 72 required to adopt community policing citywide.

The report suggested two officers from the detective division and one from the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force move to patrol.

Also, the report suggested adding seven community service officers to answering lower-priority calls. These are not sworn officers, require less training than traditional police and their salary is about 60 percent of a sworn officer's.

Police Chief Mike Empey estimated the seven officers would cost $300,000 - not counting equipment such as cars.

Empey, who announced his retirement earlier this month, said the study will be a good blueprint for his successor to follow.