JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – On Thursday night, the Johnson City Commission approved a staffing plan for the Johnson City Police Department (JCPD) that will increase the number of officers to 165 by the end of the current fiscal year.

The JCPD requested 11 additional officers to be added by the end of June 2024.

Police Chief, Billy Church, said they are currently understaffed 31 officers from what the state average should be at 185.

“The state average being 2.5 per 1,000 residents, should put us at 185 officers,” Church said.

The state average number accounts for the estimated population per city.

The JCPD plans to ask for 10 more officers each fiscal year by 2026 to get to 185.

proposed JCPD staffing plan slide presented to the Johnson City Commission

“And that number what we’re proposing now at 185, that’s where we should be today in 2023,” Church said. “So, in 2026 could be higher, but a lot of factors would depend on that. But we will revisit each year with the commission.”

Church said 12 officers are currently in training and should be on patrol by January 2024. He said more officers make the community safer.

“Crime of opportunity is always there when they’re just not seeing an officer,” Church said. “But there’s always that chance that they’re like I just saw an officer 10 minutes ago, I may see another in a few minutes. But more officers on the street just means better safety for the residents.”

The cost for this police staffing plan is budget neutral, as it’s covered by salary savings in the department.

A license plate reader system was also approved at the Thursday night commission meeting.

The JCPD was awarded a Violent Crime Intervention Grant from the state for $256,618 that will be used for the license plate reader system. $6,258.54 will be used from the patrol operating budget.

They will be installed at intersections on state routes.

“We have the capability to get notification to all our officers that, “hey, this vehicle just passed this intersection, it’s been reported stolen,”” Scotty Carrier, major with the JCPD, said. “Or if we have a vehicle of interest, say it was just involved in a major crime, a shooting somewhere in Johnson City and we were able to get a tag number that we could hurry up and try to import into the system so that we could try to track it.”

The plate readers are linked to a nationwide system and can be used for missing person cases as well including abductions.

“Any time you’re trying to solve a crime, time is very critical,” Carrier said. “And so the faster we can get the information out to the officers, the better our odds are of apprehending the suspect and so we think this is going to be a very, very critical piece of equipment that’s going to be able to help us in that endeavor then.”

The license plate reader system should be up and running by summer of 2024.