FENWICK ISLAND – Officials in Fenwick Island last week agreed to provide police assistance to South Bethany.
Last Friday, the Fenwick Island Town Council voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of understanding for police services. The agreement between the two towns will allow the Fenwick Island Police Department to assist the South Bethany Police Department as it undergoes a period of transition and reconstruction.
Fenwick Island Police Chief William Boyden told the council last week recent departures at the South Bethany Police Department had left the agency understaffed.
“South Bethany has gone through the same thing Fenwick Island went through 16 years ago,” he said. “There’s a change in administration and the exit of officers to other agencies. They are basically rebuilding their police department. Right now, they have one police officer.”
Boyden said Fenwick Island, along with Ocean View and the Delaware State Police, will help South Bethany, which will reimburse each of the agencies. Police officers will perform routine non-emergency duties, including patrol and traffic control, within the territorial limits of town.
“Officers will sign up for special duty and will go to South Bethany and patrol the streets and answer calls as needed on their days off,” he said. “It will cost nothing to the town. The Town of South Bethany is going to reimburse the Town of Fenwick Island for everything, from use of the vehicles to insurance to gasoline. Basically, they are taking care of everything.”
Boyden said police officers in Fenwick Island will follow protocols set in place by the agreement to ensure their own jurisdiction is covered.
“They are only allowed so many hours and they can’t do back-to-back shifts,” he said. “If we’re shorthanded, they can’t go out.”
Boyden said the chain of command would remain unchanged. He also outlined how arrests would be handled.
“We’ll be sworn in as police officers in the town so we have jurisdiction,” he said. “If we make an arrest, they will be transported and processed here at our police station. If we have evidence, the evidence will be processed and stored at our facility. It makes it much cleaner when it comes to prosecution.”
Councilwoman Vicki Carmean, however, questioned the timeframe for assisting South Bethany.
“How long is this going to go on for?” she asked.
Boyden estimated the police department could assist South Bethany for up to six months.
“I can’t give you a definite date,” he said. “If you want my professional opinion, I’m thinking probably six months. The biggest thing is trying to get them through the summer because of the increase in population.”
Councilman Richard Mais noted, however, that the timeframe for assisting the town could be shorter.
“The Town of South Bethany has been sending out information to their residents that they hope to get this resolved in as short as three months,” he said.
“They are already in the process of advertising for a new chief of police … and they are actively recruiting police officers,” he said. “They are much ahead of their schedule than we originally thought.”
Boyden assured the council the agreement posed no liability issues and that costs would be reimbursed.
“The agreement is very specific,” he said.
With no further discussion, the council voted unanimously to approve the agreement between Fenwick Island and South Bethany.
“Between us, Ocean View and the state police, they are going to get quite a bit of coverage,” Boyden said.