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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

DPS Board helps monitor citizen concerns with public safety

Monday, June 23, 2003

SIKESTON - The Public Safety Advisory and Appeal Board is only half of what it's name seems to imply.

Fortunately for David Teachout, who was recently appointed as the Sikeston City Council's representative on the board at their June 9 meeting, nobody has become confused by the "appeal" part of the board's name.

The appeal part of the name can be misleading. "If citizens have questions, criticism or complaints, they can submit that to the Public Safety Advisory and Appeal Board," said Linda Lowes, the city's director of governmental services. The municipal code dealing with duties and procedures provides that these issues "citizens may address directly to the advisory board if they wish to do so."

Lowes advised, however, that they can actually deal with these issues quicker by going through the city manager. "The board only meets once every two months," she noted.

"This is an advisory board and has no power in regard to hiring, firing or discipline of any member of public safety," she continued. "Issues they consider are the development and maintenance of good community relations, implementation of departmental projects and monitoring of community concerns."

Recommendations from the board are then reported to the City Council.

"This is one of the boards that have evolved as the needs of the city have changed," said Lowes.

The board was created in December 1976 when the police and fire departments were merging into a single department of public safety.

"It was created to help in the transition," Lowes said. The original purpose was to hear questions, concerns, criticisms and recommendations related to the merger. "Since then it has been amended several times."

In 2002, it was enlarged from five members to nine.

At the June 9 meeting, the board was again changed to include a city council representative, providing the Council with "both an ear and a voice to talk to the board," according to Lowes.

Effective July 9, voting members on the board will include eight citizen appointees serving three-year terms and one Council member serving a one-year term.

The DPS director remains a non-voting member of the board, and the city manager, while not a permanent member of the board, may address the board as he deems appropriate.

Teachout first went on the board in 1993, one of five citizen members.

"At the time, a couple of other guys and I were involved in fund raising for the D.A.R.E. program," he recalled. Among their fund-raising activities was the "haunted hay ride" out at the rodeo grounds that raised money for the anti-drug program. "I wanted to take my involvement with the DPS further than that and put my name in the hat for the advisory board."

He ended up serving two three-year terms. "Then I had to sit out that mandatory term," he said. Teachout was then appointed to the board again in October 2002.

"As it was explained to me, the board's function was to be somewhat of a citizen's liaison," said Teachout, "a point people could come to bring their concerns to the DPS."

Meeting with supervisory staff, he and his fellow board members are exposed to some of inner workings of DPS including statistics and other numbers.

"We would be apprised of what was going on inside the department," Teachout said. "Then we go back to the public, let them know what's going on."

For example, Teachout can remember being asked about things like the intersection near Taco Bell in which the westbound shoulder is often mistaken for a right turn lane. DPS, in turn, responded by having white lines painted to more clearly show the area as shoulder and not a turning lane.

Board members have also been asked on occasion to provide unbiased opinions on matters, Teachout said, and have helped with some decision making. "That last term Paul Boyd, a former DPS officer, and myself were asked to be on the selections committee for the new fire station," Teachout said.

Teachout doesn't think serving as a councilman will change much, if anything. "I'm still a citizen and the issues are still the same," he said.

Those interested in serving on the board in the future can indicate their interest by filling out a Citizens Bank Resource application available online at www.sikeston.org or at City Hall. Board members are required to be registered voters residing in the incorporated city limits.

"We rely on their experience and relations in the community to get input," said Lowes.

This is the second in a series of articles on area government boards, commissions and committees.