Area police departments present proposals for serving Oxford Twp. following death of chief

Some say township should keep local control

Police services for the unincorporated area of Oxford Twp. are at a crossroads with three options facing trustees as they look to the future.

The majority of speakers at a public forum on the subject favored keeping the current situation of the township providing its own police department but two other options have come in the wake of the death of township Police Chief Michael Goins this past summer. Both the City of Oxford Police Division and the Butler County Sheriff’s Office have proposed contracting with them to provide police protection to the township.

Oxford Twp. is in the northwestern corner of Butler County, where it meets Preble Co., Ohio, and Union Co., Ind.

Oxford Police Chief John Jones and Anthony Dwyer, of the sheriff’s office, spoke to coverage the township would receive under a contract with them and township acting chief Patrick Piccioni spoke to keeping the department intact, although proposing a better pay scale for constables than currently in place.

Trustee chairman Gary Salmon opened the discussion, held in the Talawanda High School Performing Arts Center, by saying both outside agencies approached the trustees upon the death of Chief Goins proposing contracts to provide service.

“I want to make it clear. There have been comments on social media saying Oxford or the Sheriff will take over the Oxford Township Police Department,” Salmon said, denying that as happening. “The township is in good financial condition.”

Piccioni said he shares with the late chief the values of a department which serves many, varied needs of the residents.

“I have given 19-and-a-half years of my career to the township and this police department. I feel the same as Chief Goins. The benefits of an independent police department are the number one focus is on Oxford Township,” Piccioni said. “We primarily patrol Oxford Township. Patrolling up and down a road is a deterrent. As an independent police department, we have a smaller number of officers with a smaller population. The needs of township residents at times differs from the needs of a city.”

He cited the example of calls dealing with livestock.

He also cautioned residents about dealing with contracts, saying there is an end to contracts leading to potential uncertainty in the future.

Piccioni said he has heard rumblings of training levels below standard for township officers but said that is not the case.

“We have an extensive 2022 training plan that will exceed Ohio standards,” he said.

Dwyer said the Sheriff’s department is primarily responsible for unincorporated areas of Butler County and are providing law enforcement services to several townships in the county with officers specifically assigned to those townships.

He said they provide 24-hour service and tailor the service to what the township wants.

“Hanover Township has two officers. Liberty Township pays $2 million but they want a lot of services,” Dwyer said. “It gets a little complex. We contract with so many agencies. Whatever you want, we will do. We are here to please the people we contract with.”

Chief Jones said a contract between the city and township would allow him to hire additional officers to service the township and other officers could be available for service, as needed.

“I understand this is a difficult discussion to have,” Jones said. “I believe we can provide the product. I believe we can help township residents and city residents. We have multiple officers on duty and command staff at all hours. Training is important to our department. Education is important to us.”

He said he is familiar with the needs of township residents, having grown up on a dairy farm and having lived in Oxford Township in the past. He said he currently lives on the township line and shares a driveway with a township resident.

Comments from the audience began with Marc Biales saying he hoped the township would keep its own department, saying if a change is made, it is difficult to go back. He cited the example — although not a police issue — of noticing a hole in township bridge one morning and reporting it. It was repaired by the end of the day. He likes the idea of keeping local service.

A similar comment did involve police in an incident at a township business in which township police and Sheriff’s deputies were helped by neighbors in apprehending the offenders, prompting the speaker to say he is in favor of keeping things as they currently are.

Former township trustee John Kinne said he favors that local control.

“An independent department lets us do what we think best for the department,” he said. “Oxford Township is a safe place for many reasons and the police department is one of them.”

Gina Corso spoke of the support the current police department provides.

“We have been very, very thankful for the Oxford Township Police Department. We live near the covered bridge and there is a lot of activity there. We appreciate our police department.”

A business owner called the township department “wonderful” and said she and her family would vote to keep the Oxford Twp. Police Department.

The issue of a $13.50 hourly pay rate for part-time township constables was raised several times, and Piccioni was asked about raising that figure. He said he was not sure how high it could go but repeated his hope of increasing it to draw more interest. He said he is also working on other incentives such as gym memberships or shooting range opportunities to help.

Salmon was asked about when a decision will be made and he said he hopes they can do it at the trustees’ December meeting, which is scheduled for Monday evening at 6:30 p.m. He said he wanted to do it before the end of the year so they can set payroll for 2022.

“When I became a trustee in 2004, we had volunteer police. The chief would go to the academies and find graduates looking for jobs,” he said, saying those officers would gain experience for their job searches. He said it has been difficult in recent months filling open positions because of the uncertainty over the future of the township department. “The chief has people who want to come with us but they do not want to work for two months and not have a job anymore.”

While the three options outlined by the three speakers at the meeting were the primary ones, there was a fourth option outlined in a letter to residents seeking comment and attendance at the meeting.

That option would call for having the Sheriff’s Department provide coverage without contract and at no cost but there would be no guarantee of any particular level of coverage. If that were the case, the three current police levies would be discontinued.

The letter to residents offered the following summary: “On a cost basis, Options 1, 2 and 3 are very similar. Our current funding would support any one of the options for several years but an additional levy will be needed eventually for any one of the three. Dedicated 24/7 coverage is a part of each of Options 1, 2 and 3. Management and administration will stay with the township under Option 1, but would rest with the city under Option 2 and with BCSO under Options 3 and 4. Continued employment for our current constables is guaranteed with Option 1, it is likely for at least the full-time constables under Options 2 and 3.”

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