Decide Issue On the Merits

Wheeling voters can decide on Nov. 6 whether their police chief will have the authority to decide how many officers he assigns to individual patrol cars. That would give the chief more flexibility in scheduling officers to serve and protect residents and businesses.

The issue is controversial enough without confusion over whether the referendum itself is legal.

For many years, a municipal rule has required that police cruisers must be staffed by two officers in most situations. It has been pointed out that restricts the chief’s ability to send individual officers out on patrol in less dangerous areas and times, thus limiting his ability to make the best use of the police force. Chiefs in the past have pointed out they would use two officers per cruiser when safety considerations warrant, but only one in many other situations such as routine traffic control duties.

In August, Wheeling City Council agreed to place the issue on the Nov. 6 ballot to allow voters to decide whether the two-officer rule should be retained.

But the city’s Fraternal Order of Police chapter is seeking a court order invalidating the referendum. The FOP request claims council meetings during which the issue was voted upon were not held according to city and state requirements.

City Manager Robert Herron insists the meetings were in compliance with all the rules. The final word on that will be handed down by a judge, of course, but our review of the process supports Herron’s position.

The process appears to have been conducted openly and legally.

Still, the very fact the FOP filed its motion in court may raise questions in the minds of some voters.

Again, it appears city council dotted all the “i’s” and crossed all the “t’s” in placing the referendum on the ballot. Unless some new information comes to light, it appears the judge will rule the vote can proceed as scheduled.

That means voters should make up their minds solely on the merits of the issue – and we urge them to do just that.