BRISTOL - Although it’s realistically down nine officers at the moment, the Police Department is hoping to be fully staffed by the summer - on paper, at least.
Of the 121 possible slots the department has, 117 of those positions are filled. However, that number includes three officers in the academy and two more undergoing field training, leaving police, in actuality, down nine officers.
“It’s a common issue in this business,” Chief Brian Gould said. “It’s one that many police departments deal with.”
“I can’t remember the last time we were fully staffed.”
Gould is hoping to hire four new officers by the summer, but that’s contingent on open seats being available in the next available academy class.
“In a perfect world, we’ll have four suitable applicants and four open academy seats,” Gould continued.
According to the city’s website, new police officers can earn a starting salary that ranges from $60,558 to $73,610. Applicants who have completed a regional test will be handpicked by the department’s command staff before they go before the Board of Police Commissioners for final approval.
New hires are required by the state to spend six months in the police academy. They then spend about 12 weeks with a Bristol police officer in field training, learning the ins and outs of law enforcement in the city.
The challenge of getting fully staffed typically occurs during this roughly nine-month time period. “Attrition” is the word Gould used to describe it. Over time, the police department is usually hit with unexpected retirements, injuries or, on occasion, officers who leave for another department. It’s a constant uphill battle.
One thing that won’t get in the way of hiring new officers is the budget, according to Mayor Ken Cockayne.
“Those positions are all incorporated into the budget, so it’s not like you’re taking money away from somewhere else,” Cockayne said.
“I would like to see the police department fully staffed. We want to get as many police officers as we need.”
According to Capt. Edward Spyros, having a full staff allows police to do more special details and assignments, such as the walking beat, the bike patrol and other community policing methods.
“You don’t get to do as much of that when you lack manpower,” Spyros said.
One area where police can’t afford to skimp is at the patrol level.
“Our primary objective is responding to service calls,” Gould said.
Because of this, the department sometimes has to pay officers overtime to make sure they have at least the minimal staffing levels on patrol. Spyros, though, said the department has been able to keep this to a minimum as of late, as they’ve grown accustomed to dealing with staffing issues.
“It’s nothing new for us,” the captain said.
Justin Muszynski can be reached at 860-973-1809 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.