By STEPHEN BEALE
Union Leader Correspondent
GOFFSTOWN --- 04/03/07:
Speaking before the board of selectmen last night, police Chief Michael French proposed a major shift in staffing that would put more patrol officers on the streets and streamline how the department is run.
The change, French said, is being prompted by the retirement of three senior officers, including Capt. Glenn Dubois, who ended 33 years with the department last week (click here for related article). "The retirement of these three key individuals leaves some significant holes to fill," French said.
French told the board that he wants to consolidate the four existing divisions within the department into two, eliminating senior staff positions so that he can gain more partol officers. The net result would be three more full-time patrol officers, plus a part-time analyst to study crime and emergency response statistics.
The two new divisions - operations and support - each would be commanded by a lieutenant and would replace the four that exist now: patrol, communications, records and legal.
French said the proposal is the most dramatic organizational change since he became chief in 1999.
All this is possible, French said, without exceeding the $3.7 million allocated to the department in 2007.
"The good news, according to the town's finance department based on what I passed on to them to research, is that all of these things can be done and accomplished within the existing budget," French said.
One of the main advantages of the new system, French said, would be the boost to the number of patrol officers. The FBI recommends that local police departments have a range of 1.8 to 2.3 sworn officers per 1,000 people, he said. At 30 policemen, Goffstown does not meet that standard.
A second study to come out of the FBI National Academy, French said, calculated the ideal number of patrol officers based on how many calls the department handles, how long it takes to respond to them, and how many miles of road it patrols, among other factors.
Based on that study, French said, Goffstown shold have 28 patrolmen.
Instead, it has 16, not counting one officer who has been assigned duty as a detective and another who is assigned duty in the schools.
Selectman Nick Campasano commended French for streamlining the department, but said the savings should not automatically be used for the new hires.
Selectman Vivian Blondeau asked if French would have difficulty hiring new officers. French said his department, like other area agencies, struggles to find applicants who could meet the rigorous hiring standards.
Neither French nor the selectmen provided and exact timeline for when a decision will be made on the proposal.