The city of New London is struggling to deal with the several-million-dollar deficit that has taken a toll on basic city functions such as police operations.
Police said faulty technology has left seven of the department's 17 patrol car cameras out of service. According to Deputy Chief Peter Reichard, the problem stems from compatibility issues between older and newer systems.
But aging public safety equipment, like the failing cameras and even patrol cars, is just a symptom of a much more serious problem as the city tries to balance its budget and avoid more financial troubles.
“There’s always a concern in every department when any equipment isn't up to the standard that we’d like," said New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, "Or [when] our staffing levels aren’t at optimum levels as well.”
Finizio is the first mayor to lead the city in almost a hundred years. New London was governed by a council-manager system until 2010, when residents voted to modify the city charter and reinstate a strong mayor and city council structure.
Finizio said that within a month of taking office, he realized the city was headed toward "the equivalent of municipal bankruptcy" due to a $5 million deficit. That forced him to cut staff, including police officers, and raise taxes.
“We’re not Washington, D.C.," said Finizio. "They can forget about reality and live in fantasy land as long as they want. Here in New London, this is where the rubber meets the road.”
The mayor said it will take until halfway through the fiscal year, which started in July, to determine whether the budget is balanced and begin spending.
He plans to meet with department officials, such as the police chief and deputy chief, to prioritize needs, including replacing patrol cars, investing in new camera technology and hiring new officers.
Finizio admits they will not be able to meet all the present needs, and some residents are questioning his judgment.
“Well, I don’t think the mayor knows what he’s doing," said lifelong New London resident Reid Burdick, who worries the mayor will bankrupt the city. “I’ve lived in this city a long time, and I see where he wastes money on needless things. I believe there’s money.“
But Finizio said he's optimistic despite the city's troubles and shortage of "boots on the ground" in the police force. He said this year the city is on track to have one of the lowest crime rates in it's history.
“It’s tough. But we’re making it happen," said Finizio. "We’re doing the best we can with what we have, and we’ll rebuild slowly over time."