In anticipation of hiring additional police officers next fiscal year, police officials are starting to plan for the police hiring process, which is a sequence of events required to bring new officers onto the police staff, Police Chief Michael Kehoe told Police Commission members this week.
At an April 2 session, Chief Kehoe said that depending upon how the town’s budgeting process for the 2013-14 fiscal year transpires, the police department may hire three or four additional officers.
The police department has 45 sworn members, which is its current full complement. It formerly had 47 members, but the authorized number of officers dropped to 45 by attrition during the past several years.
Police Commission members initially had requested that the police department add 11 new members to the police force in the 2013-14 fiscal year.
The anticipated addition of new officers comes in the wake of public requests for added police staffing to improve safety at local schools in light of the December 14 shooting incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which a gunman on a shooting rampage killed 20 first-graders and six educators.
Voters will act on the proposed town budget for 2013-14 at an April 23 referendum.
In the police hiring process, based on interviews, the Police Commission develops a list of job candidates who receive conditional offers of employment, provided that those candidates meet applicable hiring standards.
Potential employees are subject to medical examinations, psychological testing, polygraph tests, and personal background checks. The lengthy police hiring process is designed to find the people who are best suited for police work.
After their hiring, new police officers attend the Connecticut Municipal Police Academy in Meriden and then undergo local field training before beginning independent patrol work.
In a related matter, Chief Kehoe told commission members that on April 2, two police officers were out of work due to the lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) stemming from the 12/14 incident.
The chief said he expects one officer to return to duty soon and the other officer may return to work in May.
The 12/14 incident has resulted in a variable number of town police officers having been intermittently off work due to the lingering effects of PTSD, which is a severe anxiety disorder.
In another matter, police Captain Joe Rios said that the number of traffic stops and building checks that police made in February was down significantly compared to such activities in February 2012.
Capt Rios noted, however, that the number of traffic stops made by police in February was higher than the number of traffic stops which they made during the preceding month.
The captain said that the decrease in such activities stems from the after-effects of 12/14. He said he will be having police supervisors monitor the matter and make recommendations for improvements.
Police Commission Chairman Paul Mangiafico said that statistics indicate that while police made 52 traffic stops in February, they made 980 such traffic stops in February 2012.
Also, police made 437 building checks in February, but had made 1,210 building checks in February 2012, he said.
The major decrease in the number of traffic stops and building checks poses the potential for increased local crime, said Police Commission member Joel Faxon.
“Now, more than ever, people are interested in demanding a safe place to live,” Mr Faxon said.
It is clear that police need to hire more officers, Mr Faxon said.
Police staffing shortages that have occurred since 12/14 have resulted in the police department greatly exceeding its police overtime budget.