Ralston city hall

The Ralston City Council unanimously approved the addition of a 14th police officer to the Ralston Police Department at its March 5 meeting.

RPD Chief Marc Leonardo said the department was understaffed with 13 officers after the city eliminated a vacant position when it passed its 2018-19 fiscal year budget. Losing the officer has led to frequent schedule changes and safety issues such as fewer patrols or more officers working shifts alone, Leonardo said.

Those alone shifts led to more calls for assistance from the La Vista Police Department, which said it would no longer respond to assistance calls from RPD except for help an officer and active robberies, Leonardo said.

The department’s school resource officer at Ralston High School was also called out of the building a couple times at the beginning of the school year, Leonardo said, and adding a 14th officer would ensure the SRO could remain in the school.

Funding for the 14th officer will come from the elimination of a vacant administrative position, Finance Director Tim Bohling said.

Councilman Ben Preis said during the budget preparation sessions he had raised concerns it didn’t make sense to eliminate an officer position while trying to reduce overtime.

“It didn’t make sense to me then, it doesn’t make sense to me now,” he said. “I fully agree we need the 14th officer.”

The council also approved the lease of a police cruiser to replace a Dodge Charger and held a public hearing and approved a first reading for an ordinance to amending the city’s sign regulations.

RPD could fund the lease on the cruiser due to more than $30,000 in savings on software upgrades by working in tandem with Douglas County.

In other council action, cat colony advocates shared their progress reconciling with a local resident over the way the cat advocates were caring for the colonies. A disagreement between the two got contentious at the Feb. 5 meeting. The city is exploring adopting an ordinance to allow for sheltering, neutering and releasing cats to control colony populations.

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