The Ellison Era
Fri, 07/08/2022 - 10:13am admin
Willow Springs Police Department is under new leadership
Amanda Mendez, Publisher
After a longtime struggle to retain personnel, the Willow Springs Police Department currently has a full department of eight full-time officers. Wes Ellison took over as Chief of Police in Willow Springs officially on May 28 following the retirement of Bryan Hogan.
"My biggest priority is officer safety, and my goal is to get two people on every shift," Chief Ellison told Howell County News on June 23.
That morning, Chief Ellison accepted grant funds from the MFA Oil Foundation to assist in the purchase of new tasers for officer use. The amount of the award was $2,000, which should provide two additional X1 Tasers so "each guy can be assigned a taser," Ellison explained.
Without enough equipment to assign one to each officer, tasers have been shared among the officers, which has caused logistical problems in the past.
In addition to the tasers, Ellison has been applying for grants for new vests and other equipment. He, along with former Chief Hogan, approached the Board of Alderman for help with employee retention in the police department.
At the May meeting with the city government, Ellison reported he had "no applicants" for officer positions. In cooperation with the committee created by the Board of Aldermen, Ellison said he has been "looking into incentives." Neighboring law enforcement agencies, such as the Howell County Sheriff's Office, have recently passed law enforcement tax increases. The city's hourly wage is not as competitive.
"I don't know if it's the money," Ellison said. "We're probably a dollar or two shorter than a lot of agencies per hour, but guys like take-home cars. They like to be able to keep their equipment organized. We're looking into incentives to keep people here."
Despite these challenges, the department is currently fully staffed with eight full-time officers and a newly hired Assistant Chief of Police, Allen Lewis.
"For a long time, we have had brand new guys out of the academy. I want to get experienced officers that are well-trained that can provide the service to the community that they deserve," Ellison explained.
He considers the current slate of officers to be "pretty well-rounded" with a "mix of newer and more experienced guys."
Regarding employee retention incentives for officers, Chief Ellison expects to receive recommendations from City Hall on his ideas at the July 25 meeting of the Board of Aldermen.