Ridgeway Cop: Risks in Moving Police HQ

RIDGEWAY (Jan. 15, 2016) – A potential weakness in the plan to relocate the Ridgeway Police Department from its Palmer Street station and into the Century House was hashed out during Town Council’s Jan. 7 work session, but not entirely resolved.

Pointing to the arrest last month of a man wanted out of Tega Cay, N.C. on assault charges, Officer Christopher Culp asked Council to consider the potential risks of having to detain a violent suspect in a Century House office.

“On an average day, I’m trying to figure out how many times we bring an individual, if the police station moves here, how many times a day that you would actually bring someone here that could be potentially dangerous,” Councilman Heath Cookendorfer said.

Anyone, Cookendorfer argued, has the right to walk into the police station just as they do the Century House, so the danger to bystanders would be the same.

“The difference is, if they come into the police department, they already have a problem,” Culp said. “If they come in here, you’ve got people coming in to pay their water bill, or they’re coming in to look around or something. If I get somebody that’s committed a murder, attempted murder, assaulted an officer, and let’s say I bring him in and he decides (he’s) not going in, he decides to fight, so if we’ve got a group of people standing in the front door when I bring him in, I can’t control that.”

Cookendorfer questioned why such a dangerous suspect would even be brought to the local station in the first place, and not delivered directly to the Fairfield County Detention Center. Culp said paperwork is required to transport a prisoner to the Detention Center, paperwork kept at the police station.

“You’re not going to keep warrants inside your vehicle,” Culp said. “If I stop someone out there who has warrants on them, I have to come back, come into the police department and I have to bring them in because I can’t leave them in the car unattended, bring them in, get the warrant, and then transport them back to the police department.”

Culp acknowledged that assistance was available from the Sheriff’s Office; however, if all units were tied up at the time, he would be on his own.

Culp also said that the mere presence of a police station attracts more dangerous customers than just a town hall.

“See how we’re having this meeting tonight? The police department would be here and it would be active,” Culp said. “Let’s say (someone) walks in, battling mental illness, with a gun. All of our lives are in danger here, versus over there at the police department, there’s only one person and I’m trained to handle a situation like that.”

But Cookendorfer said the relocation of the police department was a financial issue, above all. According to Cookendorfer, it costs the Town $477 a month to operate the police station at its current location – and that is, he said, including the cost of Internet service, which the police station does not currently have. It costs the Town $408 a month to operate the Century House, he said.

Speculating that the Town could rent the police station for $600 a month, Cookendorfer estimated that the Town could add, after the Railroad took its cut, $2,304 to its budget every year.

Culp, meanwhile, said he has written more than 100 citations in his first two months of duty, with charges ranging from $200 to $1,275 per ticket. If that trend continued, the police department could more than make up for the rent and utilities.

Cookendorfer pointed out that of the $4,990 in fines collected in December, the Town’s share was $1,963, with the remainder going to the State.

“It’s a money thing,” Cookendorfer told Culp. “Talking about moving the police department here, we talked about (it) before you (Culp) came on staff. You knew about it and I understand during the interview you talked about moving here. Your salary was based on the fact that we thought we (were going to be renting out the police station). That was part of our decision, finding money.”

“However the town thinks is best, I’ll run that job,” Culp said. “I just want the employees and Councilmen to know that this is a big liability. It’s going to happen.”