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Restructured Worcester PD Still Lacks Manpower

Monday, February 04, 2013

 

The Worcester Police Department has undergone organizational restructuring over the past several years in order to streamline management and reduce costs, but officials said staffing levels are still well below what they were in the early 2000s and adding more recruits remains a top priority.

In a report to the City Manager and Council, Chief of Police Garry Gemme said the "severe economic downturn" prompted the department to reduce staffing and restructure to meet tighter budget restrictions.

Streamlining Management

"In order to meet these new demands, the department consolidated some units, laid off a recruit class, and through attrition reduced the number of supervisory personnel," he said.

The number of police supervisors has been reduced from 99 to 88 solely through attrition, realizing annual savings of $1.15 million for the department.

"Structurally, we adopted the split-force model of policing to support our community policing efforts and improve our ability to respond to calls for service," Gemme said, which is designed to allow officers to devote time to working with neighborhood groups and addressing their safety concerns separately from working the police radio and responding to requests for immediate assistance.

"To support this effort, the Community Impact Division (CID) was formed and district officers were assigned to work collaboratively to solve both chronic and emerging neighborhood problems. Additional officers were assigned to the CID to provide the infrastructure needed to support the efforts of the district officers. At the same time our patrol officers were freed from certain tasks better handled by the CID. This freedom gave patrol officers more time to concentrate on their primary responsibility of responding to calls for service."

Manpower Still Lower Than Before

However, despite the organizational improvements, the WPD is still feeling the effects of the poor economy when it comes to boots on the ground.

According to Gemme, the department currently has 324 officers, and an additional 17 enrolled in the police academy will be joining the force later this year. At the same time, the department expects its rolls to thin by six members due to attrition by the end of the summer of 2013. The arrivals and departures will bring the WPD's ranks to 335 officers, which Gemme said is a net increase of five more than the reorganizational staffing level, but still well below the 382 officers the department previously authorized and budgeted for.

"The 5 additional officers are most welcome but they will have limited impact in meeting the community expectations for increased traffic enforcement, foot patrols, community policing, and increased visibility in the neighborhoods," the chief said, adding that any effort to increase the number of officers in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget would be appreciated.

"The Chief and I are in complete agreement regarding the importance of maintaining a streamlined management structure within the Department," said City Manager Michael O'Brien.

"We are also in agreement that future new personnel investments in the Department must be directed towards the positions that are our front-line direct and immediate police services, such as traffic officers, community impact officers, and patrol officers- responsive and visible to the community.

"City Council has stated clearly that another police recruit class of 20 is the number one priority for FY2014. I continue to evaluate all aspects of our FY2014 budget projections factoring a recommendation for a new police class of 20 per this City Council's prioritization. This recommendation would be in lock-step with all the professional police efforts to date in the realignment of the Department and with the #1 goal to increase patrol/ front line police resources in our neighborhoods and throughout the City."
 

 

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