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Chief works to strengthen Shelbyville police

By DAVID MELSON - dmelson@t-g.com
Posted 7/9/22

Years of experience have taught Shelbyville Police Chief Jan Phillips that growing his department as the city’s population increases is a must.

He’s overseeing a department facing a …

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Chief works to strengthen Shelbyville police

Years of experience have taught Shelbyville Police Chief Jan Phillips that growing his department as the city’s population increases is a must.
He’s overseeing a department facing a growing number of calls with a staff limited in size by funding.
“At this point in 2016 we were running around 1,100-1,200 calls for service a month. We ran 2,100 last month (May),” Phillips said. “Our call volume has increased tremendously over the past few years. There’s an influx…the traffic’s heavier. We’ve got more people. We’ve got more cars on the road. Our accidents haven’t gone up that much, just the calls for service. “
The department is authorized for 47 officers and has 46. A hoped-for COPS grant will allow three more officers to be hired.
“We couldn’t budget those this year because if you apply for them with a grant they can’t be pre-budgeted,” Phillips said. “The grant pays 75 percent, we pay 25 percent of their salaries for three years. After the third year we have to offer to pay them a fourth year. Of course we’re going to keep them on, which would help us out a lot with new people coming into town, more building, more population, heavier traffic and all that stuff.”
Wanted: Officers
The department works hard to find officers – and is having to go to some lengths.
“I think the (City of Shelbyville) HR department puts it in some state publication, we put it out there most of the time on Facebook, some law enforcement websites and Facebook pages. We don’t get the applications like we used to,” Phillips said.
“We’ll take applications for a couple of months and then put them through the testing process to see what we’ve got. We look at their past record, if they’ve bounced around a lot, any past indication that they’re not stable, and sit down and have a talk and interview with them, just sort of feel them out a little bit. Those have worked really, really well.”
The next step: Retaining officers. Phillips named one officer “who left us and went to Berry Hill, for more money and better insurance, and that’s what we have to compete with sometimes.”
“We’re hoping to get a fairly good pay increase for our employees this year, we got one last year, and hopefully we can retain them but they look at other departments and we have to compete with Murfreesboro, Tullahoma and Lewisburg, and they’re getting creative on what they’re offering. It used to be hard to get a job with a police department, there wasn’t a lot of turnover, but with the way everything is now it’s a competitive business…it really is.”
Two officers from areas far from Shelbyville are “fitting in well,” Phillips says. Andrew Le Roy, from Illinois with 20 years experience, and Brandon Pasley, from Pennsylvania, have joined within the past two years.
Drug issues
“Methamphetamine, heroin and prescription drugs are the biggest drug problem in Shelbyville,” Phillips said. “I haven’t heard a lot about cocaine usage but that’s not saying there’s not any. It might be making a comeback. I think the prescription drugs have slacked off a little bit now because they track that through pharmacies.”
Shane George, who is technically considered a Shelbyville police officer, is the director of the 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force.
“He’s been an officer for 17-18 years,” Phillips said. “When he first came on here he was assigned to the DTF and worked his way up to where he is now. He keeps in close contact with us. The SPD pays part of his salary and the district attorney’s office makes up the difference.
“Our CID (Criminal Investigation Division i.e. detectives) works closely with them. We have two K9s that are detecting a lot of drugs on the streets, mostly small arrests, officers are stopping vehicles and smelling marijuana (and using a drug dog to sniff vehicles)which leads up to cocaine and other drugs, One of the K9s is on what we call directed patrol,.”
Phillips realizes illegal drug use isn’t going away, no matter how much enforcement takes place.
“As long as there’s a demand there’s going to be a supply. “
Homeless situation
Police regularly receive complaints and reports of homeless people sleeping in vehicles or, during the summer, openly in parking lots of businesses. Other reports concern customers of businesses, usually convenience stores, being pestered for money.
“There;’s not a lot the city can do about squatters and homeless people unless a property owner calls and complains,” Phillips said. “They can’t be charged for trespassing without a complaint. Officers just let them stay where they are.”
Regarding the squatters frequenting the vacant former Rite Aid drug store downtown, Phillips said, “Apparently they allow everyone to set up their food trucks there too, so that’s private property there and we don’t bother them unless we have a call or a disturbance or some type of complaint. I don’t think a lot of these people are from Shelbyville. It’s everywhere. It’s not just Shelbyville.”
He urges people not to just hand over money to those asking. City officials recently erected anti-panhandling signs after Phillips saw similar signs in Cookeville. Those signs urge donations to charity groups instead of directly to individuals.
Mass shootings
“If we ever have a situation like that we go straight to the threat. If we hear gunshots we go straight to that threat,” Phillips said. “We don’t wait around on the outside. We go in and take out the problem. We’ve trained on that with the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office, Emergency Management Agency and school security.”
Strong backing
“We’ve been lucky that we’ve had good support from our community. I went in a place of business the other day, walked in and walked out, and had three people tell me, ‘Thank you for your service.’  That means a lot. That makes you feel like people appreciate you. Sometimes you don’t get that in larger cities. We’re lucky here to have that kind of relationship with our community. “