Commonwealth Journal

December 26, 2013

Ferguson Police Dept. growing to meet demands of 2014

by Heather Tomlinson
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

The City of Ferguson may be tiny in size, but it now boasts the largest police force the hamlet has ever seen. 
“To me, these guys are providing a level of safety that I’m really satisfied with,” said Ferguson Mayor Allen Dobbs, about the small town’s expanded police department.
Ferguson Police Chief David Moss said safety for the town’s residents and those who travel through the city is their goal. 
“Our main goal is to make Ferguson the safest city in the state,” said Moss. 
Moss is just one-third of Ferguson’s police force. Officers Gary Pence and Anthony Phillips make up the remainder of the department. 
The officers combined bring more than 70 years of police experience to the table. Moss has worked in law enforcement for more than 36 years. Pence, who retired from the Somerset Police Department, has 25 years of police experience. Phillips, who retired from Kentucky State Police, brings 22 years of experience to the force. 
The three officers are dedicated to ensuring Ferguson stays as safe as possible — and it seems to be working, according to Moss. 
Moss said KSP will often hand down case reports to local-level law enforcement agencies, and he said it’s common for Ferguson to receive a report that no new criminal cases have been opened within the city in a month or so. 
“We are proud of the fact we don’t have much crime here,” said Moss.
But that wasn’t always the perception.
Dobbs said when he was first was elected mayor his son reported to him that other students had been told not to drive through Ferguson because it was unsafe. Dobbs, who is finishing his seventh year as mayor, was also asked by his neighbors to increase the police presence in the small town.
“I knew something had to be done,” said Dobbs. 
What ensued was an effort to find funds in the town’s limited budget to cover additional police officers. Although the city’s budget hasn’t seen an increase in funding, city officials worked to cut back in some areas to help provide that funding. Those efforts, combined with grants to help pay for police equipment, has resulted in the larger police force. 
“You have to work on a budget,” said Dobbs. “You have to provide some level of safety, but it can be tough.”
Ferguson’s police force also works hard to ensure the city’s main road — heavily traveled by many on a daily basis — stays safe. 
“The opening of Ky. 914 allows for more traffic flow,” said Dobbs. “It requires more police coverage.”
The city only has a population of 924 residents, according to the 2010 Census, but it sits on one of the most oft-used routes in the county. Murphy Avenue connects Somerset’s Monticello Street with Ky. 914, which provides quick access to the southern and western parts of the county.
What has resulted is a very high number of daily travelers in the Ferguson area. That’s fine with Ferguson officials — but they want people to know they intend to stay alert and on the look-out for any unsafe activities.  
“Come through as often as you want to,” said Ferguson Police Chief David Moss. “Just don’t speed, have (car) insurance, don’t have a warrant out on you.”
Dobbs said at one time many would take Murphy Avenue at more than 80 mph, thanks to its lack of curves and the presence of only one part-time officer. 
“There just wasn’t enough coverage,” said Dobbs. 
Murphy Avenue is bordered with many residences, and the town has several elderly residents as well. Dobbs and Ferguson’s police officers said the safety of residents is their top priority. 
“I never dreamed (there could be) as much traffic on this road until I started working here,” said Phillips. 
And after years of working to expand the department, and Moss, Phillips, and Pence’s efforts on the street, Dobbs thinks Ferguson’s reputation as an unsafe town has changed. 
“I think the perception has definitely changed,” said Dobbs. “ ... I feel we’ve done that (made the city safer) and I’m proud of these guys.”