Article 24


Shall the Town vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $45,032.00 to hire and equip one new Police Officer?  This amount represents the costs from June to December, 2006 after which the position, if approved, will be funded through the Police operating budget. (Recommended by Selectmen) (Recommended by Budget Committee)


Status

Originator Police Chief
Board of Selectmen 3-2-0 (Gleason - no, Bergeron - no)
Budget Committee 7-3-0 (Doug Viger - no, Dennis Viger - no, Lavalle - no)
Town Meeting no changes made during the Deliberative session

Voter's Guide Explanation

This warrant article would authorize the Pelham Police Department to hire and equip one additional police officer, bringing the total number of full time police officers in the Town of Pelham to 20.

Backup Data

The Pelham Police Department currently employs 19 police officers. The 20 officer’s assignments are as follows:
1 Chief
1 Captain
5 Sergeants (3 Patrol, 1 Prosecutor, 1 Detective)
8 Patrol Officers
1 K-9 Officer
1 School Resource Officer
1 Traffic Enforcement Officer
1 Detective
 

When at current full staffing levels, the regular patrol shifts are as follows; 2 Officers on the Midnight to 8 AM shift, 3 Officers on the 8 AM to 4 PM shift, and 3 Officers on the 4 PM to Midnight shift. These patrol officers are the primary responders for all emergency and non-emergency calls for service received by the Pelham Police Department.

As indicated, currently the Midnight to 8 AM shift is assigned only two officers. Unfortunately, as the Town of Pelham has grown, all of our patrol shifts have increased in their calls for service. Many times the calls for service on the Midnight shift quickly exhaust the two available officers leaving the department to depend on mutual aid from surrounding towns and/or leave town not sufficiently covered by patrol officers. The midnight shift is very busy during the first half of the shift with business checks, impaired driver enforcement, and regular calls for service such as domestic disturbances and disorderly parties. Many of these calls require both officers to respond, again leaving other parts of the town vulnerable. Additionally, due to the time of night many of the involved individuals are under the influence of alcohol and/or other chemical substances and thereby make the calls difficult and time consuming to handle for officers to handle effectively.

During the later part of the shift, 5 AM to 8 AM, the midnight shift again becomes very busy trying to conduct traffic enforcement and accident response, especially in foul weather, during the increasingly busy commuter and school hours. As the population in Pelham and surrounding communities has grown, (Hillsborough and Rockingham Counties are the fastest growing counties in the state, expected growth in next 20 years is over 20%), the Pelham Police Department has seen huge increases in commuter traffic volume using Pelham roads to access employment destinations in Massachusetts, Nashua, Salem and Manchester particularly during the early morning hours. This increase in volume has made it very difficult for the police department to maintain effective traffic enforcement during the early commute while handling other calls for service.

If an additional officer was approved by the town vote, the Pelham Police Department would be able to deploy a third officer on the midnight to 8 AM shift, allowing for more effective coverage on an increasingly busy Midnight to 8 AM shift.    

In terms of overall staffing the Pelham Police Department lags far behind  the recommended police staffing levels proposed by leading authorities in Criminal Justice. The Nashua Regional Planning Board recommends 2.0 officers per 1000 person population, the International Association of Chiefs of Police recommends 2.0 officers per 1000 person population, and the United States Department of Justice recommends 1.8 officers per 1000 population.

The estimated Town of Pelham population is approximately 13,000 people. The current police force provides for 19 officers or a ratio of approximately 1.5 officers per 1000. (see chart)                                  

By the above standards the average recommended staffing level would be 1.9 officers per 1000 person population, for a recommended staffing level of 25 officers for a town the size of Pelham, again, the current staffing level at the police department is 19 officers.

The authorization to hire one officer per this warrant article would not bring us to recommended staffing levels, however the Pelham Police Department feels it would be a tremendous advancement  in leveling out our patrol staffing issues.

In terms of how busy the Pelham Police Department is in comparison to other towns; the Windham Police Department also currently employs 19 officers, and has a similar population as Pelham, approximately 12,000. The Windham Police Department made approximately 225 arrests during 2005. The Pelham Police Department made approximately 595 arrests during 2005. This is a difference of 370 arrests a year.

According to the Manchester Union Leader (12/13/05) it is expected that over the next 20 years the population of Pelham will increase by 8000 people, additionally the Rte 93 widening project is expected to add about 36,000 more residents to New Hampshire. In light of these statistics, the Pelham Police Department asks that you support this warrant article, requesting the hiring of one additional officer, in order to help our department respond proactively to the rapidly growing public safety needs of the citizens of the Town of Pelham.