NEW: Worcester To Boost Police Force With 25 New Recruits
Monday, April 09, 2012
The city will spend $1.45 million to train and outfit the new officers, who are expected to enter the police academy in July. After six months of training, they will be ready to roll out on the streets by January 2013.
"The time has come and I am proud we are announcing a new police class to ensure Worcester remains one of the safest and most live-able cities anywhere,” Petty said to a few dozen people outside his city hall office. Behind him were a number of police officers and city councilors.
Gemme stood on the side furthest from councilors at today's news conference. As GoLocalWorcester reported, A recent controversy erupted when councilors had been working to oust the police chief, a flare-up that was silenced only after the mayor issued a verbal cease fire.
While he was there to laud the hiring of new cops, City Manager Mike O’Brien issued a none-too-thinly-veiled remark on media coverage of the public dispute when he spoke of meeting with councilors many times about hiring the new police officers.
“There were no city charter violations, I can tell you that,” he said. “When you’re negotiating, at times it takes work so that all sides understand what you’re saying.”
O’Brien pointedly thanked Gemme and his officers, saying, “We have great respect for the police department, even when we disagree. That work has made today’s announcement possible.”
Gemme spoke briefly before retreating back to his spot in the background, saying, "This is a great step forward. I think public safety needs to be our number one priority. From a personal standpoint, I think it is very important. From a professional perspective, these are critical resources.”
The police department is currently down 60 police officers, according to Petty. When Gemme was hired in 2004, he implemented a split-force style of policing that, in a recent memo to the city manager, he said was based on a staff of 382 police officers and 98 police officials. Budget shortfalls left the department with 330 cops and 85 officials. In the memo, Gemme said he anticipates the loss of 15 more officers, largely as a result of retirements, and asked for an increase to 335 officers in the fiscal 2013 budget.
Petty said an increase of 25 officers was needed to allow the department to continue to provide an optimum level of service to the city. To do that, the city manager had to implement a temporary override of the police department’s table of organization.
“Every day the men and women of the Worcester Police Department give their all to protect the residents and visitors of our city,” he said. “I am proud of their dedication and passion for making our city safe."
O’Brien said the city had reached a “crossroads” as far as staffing levels at the police department. Noting Worcester is still facing a $3.2 million budget shortfall for fiscal 2013, he said the increase in police staffing was critical, and that he would recommend the personnel boost in his budget.
"Timing is of the essence … if we are to ensure the public’s safety,” he said. “All of us here know the staffing we currently have (at the police department) is unsustainable.”
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