The president of the New London Police Union said there is a manpower shortage and officers being forced to work overtime can impact how efficient police are on the street.
Police union president Todd Lynch said when an officer has to work a double shift, it’s not as effective as a fresh cop stepping in. Some volunteer to work the additional shifts, others are forced to. But he said there needs to be more officers to fill the gaps.
The weekend of July 15 required 268 man hours of police overtime, according to an August update posted on the police union’s website. While many officers did volunteer for the additional shifts, “six officers had to be ordered in for a double shift instead of being home to be with families when the (department) ran out of volunteers to cover shifts.”
Acting Police Chief Peter Reichard said he knows his officers go above and beyond. Some volunteer to work additional shifts, others work private duty jobs on their time off. Reichard said he works to fill the shifts on the street with a certain number of officers to ensure public safety.
At times, that means officers are “ordered in” when manpower is down. Officers are often asked to fill in when co-workers are on vacation, injured, sick, participating in state-mandated training or military leave, according to Reichard.
But “ordering in” officers “ebbs and flows” from day to day and shift to shift, Reichard said. Officers are entitled to take time off, like everyone else, he added. But when vacation kicks in July 1, he said he tends to see more people take the time. When the school year starts, the number of people taking off tends to wind down.
The City of New London passed an ordinance in 2014 – which current Mayor Michael Passero helped champion – to hire at least 80 officers on the police force. They haven’t reached that number, yet, and Lynch said it’s taxing to fill the void.
Reichard said he too wants more officers, but right now the department is funded for 70 sworn officers. Currently, 68 positions are filled. The chief position and a patrol officer are the two open jobs. Reichard said someone should be filling the patrol officer role at the end of the month.
With both the state and city budgets in flux, it’s not possible to bring in more officers right now, according to Reichard. He said when he started at the department in 2012, there were around 85 officers. About three and a half years ago, there were less than 60, he said.
“If the resources are there to hire more officers, I’m happy to hire more officers,” Reichard said.
The goal is still to increase staffing, Mayor Passero said. Once the state budget is settled, the goal is to add a K9 officer, increasing the sworn officer count to 71, he said.
“Everything we do in the city is with minimal resources. Public safety is most important,” Passero said. “Public safety comes first.”
Passero said that a portion of the overtime officers work is private duty work, for which they volunteer. While that money comes from the overtime budget, the third parties who request the services reimburse the city for the costs.
The goal is to cut down on overtime overall, Passero said.
The budget for Fiscal Year 2018 is anticipating a loss of $2.5 million from the state.
In the most recent police union contract, there was a negotiated provision that gave all officers an additional 12 to 15 days off per year, Passero said.
The police union contract expired June 30. A new one is under negotiation.