By Travis Sloat
Discussion of Fort Gibson’s police force — from the chief to the reserve officers — permeated through the latest Board of Trustees meeting.
Chief Clint Vernon gave his monthly report on police activity, which included the number of traffic stops versus citations issued, as well as calls responded to versus arrests.
“I just want to stress to the board how much and why we’re out here,” Vernon said.
The board voted unanimously to accept the report as given.
Then Chief Vernon asked permission from the board to establish a roster of 15 active reserve officers in which he could add to without getting board approval for each specific time.
“Because it’s a volunteer program, it’s hard to get participation,” Vernon said. “That’s no one’s fault, people just don’t have a lot of time. In the event that we need a new full-time officer, this gives us a pool of 15 that have been appropriately trained instead of hiring guys right off the street.”
The board also voted unanimously to give Chief Vernon full control over the hiring of reserve officers, provided he give the board a detailed report every month on them.
Reserve police officers are volunteer officers who are not paid by the town, and who provide all their own equipment for patrol. Many of them have full-time or part-time jobs in which they provide income for their families.
Katie Bergmann, a recent Fort Gibson resident, said she approved of the plan as long as the reserve officers were appropriately trained.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Bergmann said. “This will give our police force a chance to make its presence known more and have a positive impact on the community.”
Vernon said he ultimately wants to make the reserve program “self-sufficient.”
“I’d like to do some car washes, some different things to raise money,” Vernon said. “That will help these reserve guys buy things like uniforms and badges. Our badges cost $100 apiece. Right now, if I have a full-time officer resign, I take their uniforms out to our reserves to see if they fit anyone.”
Vernon also said the police force has adapted very well to is philosophy on “community policing.”
“There are no exceptions,” he said. “All of the officers have bought in completely. It feels like there is some rejuvenated energy in the department. We have a new guy starting on Monday morning, and I was approved after my 90-day probation. I’m happy here, and everyone else seems to be happy.”