The most pressing problems for the Dumfries Police Department are a lack of policy and operating guidelines, according to a state review released last week.

In spite of those shortcomings and others, including antiquated and crowded department offices, law enforcement is still adequate in the town, said Ernest H. O'Boyle, an analyst with the state Department of Criminal Justice Services who conducted the review at the request of town officials.

"For a small agency, they do their job," O'Boyle said.

He blamed inconsistent record keeping by town police officers for a reported 38 percent crime rate increase in Dumfries since 1987.

"I don't think Dumfries is in the middle of a crime wave. It {the crime rate} is not going up any more than in other areas," O'Boyle said.

The council, in a 4 to 2 vote last week, agreed to implement O'Boyle's 37 recommendations for improving the department. Those recommendations include: overhauling the department's operating procedures and policy and personnel manuals; hiring a full-time administrative assistant; analyzing officers' workloads to determine the most efficient deployment of patrol officers; and moving the department offices out of the Town Hall, which needs major renovations.

Town officials said they have not determined the cost of implementing the recommendations.

"This moves us off dead center," said Mayor Samuel W. Bauckman. "This gives everybody a better understanding of what they are supposed to do."

He and some other town officials, however, said the report was no surprise.

"There was nothing in that report that I didn't know about and hadn't already been working on," said Police Chief Conrad G. LaBossiere.

Voting against implementing O'Boyle's recommendations were council members Betty Mejia-Fraley and Edward Graham, who questioned whether the town could afford to hire an administrative assistant, at a cost of about $25,000.

Town Manager Tom Harris and LaBossiere requested the review in an effort to get the department back on its feet after a year in which half the 10-member police force, including Police Chief Harvey Anderson, resigned. Virginia's Department of Criminal Justice Services, upon request, conducts reviews of local police departments at no cost.

Last winter, several officers and Anderson blamed the resignations on what they termed meddling by then-Mayor Robert McClanahan in the department's daily business. They also laid part of the blame on what they said was the council's failure to provide enough police officers to manage what appeared to be a growing drug trade in Dumfries, particularly in the Williamstown subdivision.

O'Boyle, who said he thinks the force -- now back up to 10 officers -- is adequately staffed, said the priority should be to revise the department's operating procedures and policy manuals and to make sure officers follow them.

O'Boyle said most Dumfries officers are not familiar with the manuals. As a result, they have developed their own procedures, which, in some cases, could put the department in violation of state law.

For example, O'Boyle said he found that officers filed case records "haphazardly," instead of following state guidelines for filing arrest data. The state police are investigating allegations that Dumfries officers mishandled evidence in a case last year.

In addition, a lack of personnel guidelines has made grievance procedures unclear, O'Boyle said. Instead of reporting departmental problems to their supervisors, police employees went directly to the Town Council, politicizing the department, he said.

However, Town Manager Harris said he was not familiar with any such recent incidents.

"If a police department doesn't have guidelines . . . eventually they are going to get themselves in a problem," O'Boyle said. "If nothing else, I hope that would be the one that they {the council members} take to heart."

In his analysis of officers' ranks, O'Boyle said the department appeared "top heavy" in administrators and recommended that the council re-examine the town sergeant's position.

Under the town charter, the sergeant reports directly to the council and is not part of the police department or subject to its regulations and policy. The current Town Sergeant, Horace Scites, whose primary responsibility is enforcement of zoning ordinances, plans to retire in six months, LaBossiere said.

Harris said Monday that he and the chief expected to present possible revisions to department procedures and personnel policies at the council's Tuesday night meeting. "It's a start," Harris said.