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OUR VIEW: A nonsensical new normal at City Council meetings

Council Chambers in Mitchell's City Hall. (Republic file photo)

The city of Mitchell may be hurting its own case for more police officers.

Long have we heard the calls for more police officers in Mitchell. But a recent policy enacted by the city of Mitchell shows the city either has enough officers, or their time isn't being managed correctly.

Mayor Jerry Toomey, joined by Chief of Public Safety Lyndon Overweg and City Attorney Justin Johnson, recently decided to station a police officer outside of the door to council chambers at City Hall during closed-door executive sessions.

Here's the city's reasoning behind the decision:

"The only goal is to help ensure that confidential discussions stay confidential," wrote Johnson in an email to The Daily Republic. "I understand that the new measure may seem rare or different compared to the past, but it will be the standard practice moving forward."

But this decision, which appeared to catch many City Council members off guard after the latest meeting, should spell doom for a proposal to add more police officers in Mitchell.

If the city can waste an officer's time forcing him to stand in front of a door that doesn't require protection, why does it need more officers? And if the information that could possibly be overheard from the executive session is so private, then why is it OK that a police officer can be privy to those conversations if, at times, some of the discussions can be vaguely heard from just outside the door?

This decision only leads to more questions. Why wasn't the council consulted? And why weren't true no-cost alternatives first considered?

While this was pegged as a "no-cost alternative" to protect the information discussed in private by the council, it certainly isn't. By forcing an officer to stand idly by the council chamber while crime may be occurring elsewhere, the city is prioritizing money on a guard. That money could otherwise be used to staff an on-duty officer.

We see the decision to station an officer outside of Council Chambers as an inefficiency that could easily be solved by one of two methods.

First, the council could do what it's done several times before: move the executive session to another room. Or second, and much more reasonable, council members could speak more quietly.

If the council is going to spend money on this initiative, it would make more sense to reinforce the door rather than station a police officer at the door to guard against nothing.

This decision seems rather silly, and we're waiting to learn a good reason for its approval. And we wonder if the City Council would have made the same decision if its eight members had been consulted.

Mitchell's police officers are too valuable a commodity to our town for this.

So we'll laugh this one off as bureaucratic inefficiency at its finest, but it's difficult not to think about how much time Mitchell PD will rack up by standing in front of a door — time that could otherwise be used to solve and prevent crimes.

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