N.H. police face delay in new hires
By Shira Schoenberg
The Concord Monitor
CONCORD, N.H. — The hit to the police department in City Manager Tom Aspell's proposed budget would come from a combination of a reduced overtime budget and delays in filling vacancies.
The proposed police budget is $8.76 million, up from $8.52 million last year, but lower than the approximately $8.9 million it would take to maintain current service levels. The only change to staffing levels would be in reducing a maintenance aide position by a few hours.
But the department would have to delay hiring new officers. Last year, the city approved hiring four new officers, but the department has had trouble finding viable candidates. Currently, there are seven open positions.
"It's a seller's market," said Police Chief Robert Barry. "There are more police officer positions than qualified candidates to go around."
With Aspell's proposed budget, two positions could be filled immediately. Two would be delayed until August, and three until March.
The positions could not be filled before August anyway because of the schedule of the police academy. But if they were included in the budget, Barry could use that money to pay for overtime for current employees to fill the vacant jobs. That has been particularly necessary recently, with three officers in training and two injured.
But with the proposed budget, Barry said, overtime would be reduced and the vacant positions would be cut. As a result, the community resource officer would be moved to patrol, eliminating some community-based safety programming and eliminating contact with the schools, other than school resource officers themselves. The planning and evaluation lieutenant would be reassigned to patrol during the summer, so there would be no crime or accident analysis or grant oversight during those months. A vacancy in the drug enforcement unit would not be filled, reducing drug investigations by a third. And the department may delay implementing a traffic enforcement program.
Mark Dumas, president of the Concord Police Patrolmen's Association, said he understands the hiring delay. But he is concerned with cutting back the community resource officer. "Our relationship with youth helps determine our relationship with them as they grow up," Dumas said. "There's a lot of intelligence we gain from those relationships."
Reassigning the officer would bring the department back to a position where "all we're doing is emergency services," Dumas said. "We're capable of doing that, but it's a sad state of affairs if we're taking that position."
Copyright 2008 The Concord Monitor