CENTRALIA — A Centralia man who filed a lawsuit against the City for failing to hire more police officers has submitted his petitions as a candidate for mayor in the Queen City.
Vernell Burris was one of the first people to submit their petitions Monday for the open mayor’s seat.
Bryan Kuder was also in line Monday morning. Both men will be in a lottery in December to determine who will be listed first on the ballot.
Burris filed suit against the city last December, seeking to have three additional officers hired.
He said at the time there were sufficient funds in the budget to cover the additional officers and that the additional manpower is necessary to reduce the city’s increased crime rate.
At that time the City had a near decade low staffing of 23 officers including Chief Brian Atchison.
That number has now dropped to 21 and will drop again at the end of the month when the police department’s only current detective leaves to start his new position as Chief Deputy of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.
In 2007 the department employed 27 officers, that number dropped to 22 by 2015 and then to the current number of 21.
Burris isn’t alone in his concern over CPD staffing levels; the Fraternal Order of Police has two outstanding grievances against the city.
The FOP said last year that one of the things they’ve been asking for is an increase in the staffing of the police department.
The City has agreed to hire three new officers, which will bring levels to 23 when Detective Blaine Uhls leaves on November 30.
In an interview last year with Dan Bailey of the FOP, the city had agreed to hire its 25th officer and so the FOP withdrew its first grievance.
But when the hiring of that officer fell through and no other candidate was hired, a second grievance was filed.
Bailey commented that “there are AK-47s being fired in the streets of Centralia, people being shot, and numerous armed robberies”.
He said the FOP will go all the way with their grievance until the city increases the number of officers and the citizens of Centralia have safer streets.