EAST LIVERPOOL - Comments made at Monday night's school board meeting about the city police department raised the ire of Chief John Lane, who responded Tuesday to a newspaper account of the meeting.
Board member Richard Wolf complained during the meeting that eight police officers were assigned to provide security during the East Liverpool-Beaver Local football game, saying they would not accept assignments and "don't do anything but gather up at the gate."
Wolf also said it was "impossible to deal with them," and although not published in the previous article, also said, "When cars are leaving (games), sometimes (officers) are already gone."
Lane vehemently disagreed with Wolf's assessment, saying, "We did everything we were supposed to do. I would like him to clarify what assignments we were supposed to do that we didn't."
The chief said if there were a problem with his department's performance, he would have been notified by either athletic director Bob Shansky or associate principal Jay Kiger, neither of whom had complained.
In fact, after reading Wolf's comments in Tuesday's paper, Kiger faxed Lane a letter saying, "After reading the unfortunate comments .. I felt it was absolutely necessary for you to know that the administration and staff here at East Liverpool Junior-Senior High School DO NOT share the opinions stated by that board member."
He continued, "In fact, we couldn't disagree more. We are proud of the relationship we have developed over the years and consider you part of our staff when you are working for us in any capacity."
Kiger advised that the department's work is "greatly appreciated and respected" and the administrative and teaching staffs are "grateful for your presence in our buildings and at our events" and all that the department does to provide safety.
Lane said he also was called by both Shansky and Kiger to assure him they did not share Wolf's opinion.
Nonetheless, Lane explained that his officers did do what was expected of them and then some, even though short-handed.
Due to the intense rivalry between the two teams, Lane said the department would have normally sent 10 officers to that game but dispatched eight, all of whom handled a variety of duties, not just directing traffic.
"For that game, we didn't have time to 'gather at the gate.' The guys were already working when I got there, and I got there early," Lane said, pointing out they director traffic both before and after the game and also help people cross the busy West Eighth Street safely.
According to Lane, officers need to be at the gate at some points, since that is where the money is collected. In fact, one officer reported having seen a well-known criminal hanging about the ticket gate and sent him on his way, just in case.
"They also have to be where the kids are," Lane said, with an officer saying he responded to a report of a student with a knife which was handled without incident.
Officers actually stayed an hour longer than scheduled for that particular game, reportedly without being paid for the extra time. Wolf had indicated the security detail cost the district $800.
"If he thinks he can do a better job, let him come down and direct traffic," Lane concluded.