Major staffing changes are coming to the Meriden Police Department after the city council pushed a new budget following the voter referendum rejecting a tax increase over the summer.
City Councilor Michael Carbona, who is the chair of the public safety committee, told NBC Connecticut the police department took the hardest hit from budget cuts.
Police officers are not losing their jobs, but there will be fewer of them assigned to the city’s schools and a community policing program is being eliminated altogether.
One week ago, Meriden police called in the state police bomb squad to detonate a pressure cooker found near the Israel Putnam Elementary School.
“It was an excellent response, it was an appropriate response and I really commend them especially Officer Egan who is a school resource officer to take care of that issue very quickly,” said Holly Wills, the president of the Meriden Council of Neighborhoods.
Chief Jeffry Cossette said he needs to reassign the three elementary and middle school resource officers after the city council cut the police funding by more than $420,000.
“Now the schools will obviously still remain safe,” the chief said, “but they won’t have that extra connection that they would have to the same officer every day.”
Cossette said it was a difficult decision given the heightened attention to school safety.
“No one is getting laid off,” he said, “what’s happening is they are all being reassigned to patrol which will reduce my $1.5 million overtime line item.”
Eleven officers in the neighborhood initiative program are also moving back to patrol, Cossette said.
“They’re dedicated to a certain area in the city, they get to know neighbors, they get to know them,” Will said. “Our concern is that crime is going to increase.”
Wills said the neighborhood officers have done good work responding to quality of life issues while cracking down on crime and blight.
“It’s a very sad day for the city of Meriden,” she said. “We really rely on these officers to be in our neighborhoods, especially the inner-city neighborhoods.”
Meriden’s two high schools will still have SROs. The staffing changes go into effect September 15.
If the city finds a way to restore the funding, Cossette said the neighborhood and school positions cannot be reinstated until January at the earliest.