June 7, 2007
Selectmen want police savings to remain just that

At Monday's board of selectmen meeting, selectmen voted 3-1 (Phil D'Avanza against, John Caprio absent) to deny Police Chief Michael French's request to use savings from a recent reorganization of his department to hire three new police officers.

Earlier this year, French had put together a committee to study various ways the department might deal with the upcoming retirements of Mark Young, dispatcher Sue Lebel and Capt. Glenn Dubois.  

The committee’s recommendations were to: 1) provide an accessible captain at all times, and 2) create two staff divisions within the department, each to be commanded by a lieutenant: an Operational division and a Support division. 

The Operations division would be responsible for reports, evidence, schedules, training, the explorers, crossing guards, details/extra duty and the Animal Control Officer. The Support division would be responsible for quartermaster duties, the fleet, IT, recruitment and selection, crime analysis, accreditation, grants, programs, and auxiliaries. 

As French told the board earlier this year, the reorganization plan involved reassignment of duties, internal promotions and shifting of existing personnel.  The result actually reduced the number of in-house personnel needed for the department to continue to run efficiently and eliminated the need to fill the vacancies left by Young, Lebel and DuBois.  

No longer needing to hire three replacements, French then asked selectmen for permission to use the resulting savings to hire three new full-time patrol officers and one part-time officer instead.

Selectman Phil D'Avanza apparently disagreed with the Chief's reorganization plan, stating that without hiring three new officers to patrol the streets, French's plan would fail.  "I don't think he (French) can just do the command structure (changes) and not have the additional bodies."

D'Avanza did not appear to understand that French's own plan called for funding the new patrol officers with the savings that would be realized by French's staff reorganization, internal promotions and shifting of duties and responsibilities, all accomplished without hiring replacements for the three retirees.

But the rest of the board saw things differently, and perhaps more clearly. 

Selectman Nick Campasano viewed the savings windfall as monies that should be returned to the taxpayers rather than spent on hiring additional officers.  He, along with selectmen Scott Gross and Vivian Blondeau also questioned the need for those officers. 

Said Gross, "What's the impetus for bringing on three more police officers?"  He also pointed out that if there is a good business case for hiring three new patrol officers, then that case needed to be brought before the selectmen, the budget committee and most likely the public, as the current process in Goffstown calls for.

"I would think he (French) would want to do this re-organization with his command structure regardless of whether he got 1, 2, or 3 additional patrol officers."  

In the past, Caprio has expressed the same opinion as those of Campasano, Gross and Blondeau.

Campasano countered D'Avanza's argument by discussing the police department's own organization charts.

"I have the two organizational charts here, and the patrol officers end with one box: 'Patrol Officers', in (both) the old organizational chart and the new organizational chart," Campasano said. "All of the duties, other than patrol, are handled by the staff.  And he (French) has realigned the staff in a more organized fashion, but there are no other duties coming off the 'Patrol Officer' box, as was also the case in the old organizational chart.  Nothing has changed on the patrol officer side," he said.

Campasano continued, "I would like to see us authorize his (French's) reorganization because he needs to make those promotions in order to make this system work- he needs to fill those (vacated) slots.  But I agree with Scott (Gross).  I would like to see those additional officers go through the same process that we would have if any department was asking for additional personnel.  Sometimes we get into the mindset that well, we have a savings, so let's spend that money and hire more people.  Well that's not a savings anymore.  If there is a need, we should demonstrate the need.  Any other department that comes to us with personnel requests, we require them to do some kind of study."  

Campasano also praised Chief French for the money-saving reorganization of his department.

"I do think he (French) did a very good job in the reorganization, and it could very well end up being that we hire three new police officers,"  Campasano said, "but I don't think it's a given, or I personally don't believe it should be a given, that simply because we have a savings, we should then go ahead and spend that savings for additional personnel, or something that in the long run could end up being more expensive."


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