Oran adds officer to more active department

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The expansion is met with some criticism in a town used to more relaxed law enforcement.

ORAN, Mo. -- A long time has passed since tiny Oran, population roughly 1,200, had three full-time police officers.

But policing tradition in Oran hasn't meant much to chief Marc Tragesser, who took over the job in July from the retiring Howard Stevens. Tragesser took the office with a mission of shaping up what he said was the town's relaxed attitude toward law enforcement.

His latest move, hiring another police officer early this month to round out the full-time staff to three, goes along with that mission. Before Tragesser took the post in July, the department had a staff of one full-time and one part-time officer.

Former chief Stevens said Oran did have three full-time officers long ago but that for most of his nearly three decades as chief he was able to do the job by himself.

Tragesser has no intention of following that pattern. The chief recently discovered an unused grant to pay another full-time officer. One year is left on the grant. Tragesser thought it needed to be used. A second full-time officer had already been added over the summer.

"We do need another officer," said Tragesser. "As for being able to afford it, that will be something we need to look at as the grant starts to run out."

The first person hired for the position actually quit two weeks into the job due to conflicts with another job, Tragesser said. The second hire has only been on the job about a week and hasn't started full-time work yet.

Tragesser said the police force in Oran needs the extra staff because officers have to perform a variety of duties. In addition to patrols, officers also have to investigate cases and file paperwork.

It's a lot of work in a small town, especially when police are investigating sexual offenses and child neglect cases, as Oran has in the last month, Tragesser said.

Another important aspect to having another officer is to have night patrols, the chief said.

"When people are sleeping you want to have a patrol out there," Tragesser said. "That's the most important time."

Having that many police officers isn't much different from other small towns, just different from what Oran is used to. Chaffee, a town about twice the size of Oran, has six full-time officers and two part timers. Advance, also a town of about 1,200 population, has three full-time and three reserve officers.

Since Tragesser took over, the Oran Police Department has been much more active writing tickets. Where Stevens rarely wrote a ticket in 30 years, Tragesser's department has been writing around 20 per month.

Many of those citations have been for speeding. Tragesser said most went to Oran residents. The chief expects the number of tickets to go up even more as the third full-time officer works more.

City residents are split on the new chief's way of working, as is the board of aldermen.

Ward 4 Alderman Earl Johns said only time will tell if the town needs three cops. Ward 3 Alderwoman Brenda Cook said she thinks the town needs the extra policing, especially around the holidays.

But one alderman, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue, said three full-time police officers are just too much.

msanders@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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