Groton official dissatisfied with study on police coverage

Groton - The chairman of the Representative Town Meeting's Public Safety Committee said Monday a draft study of the police departments does not give taxpayers the information they want.

RTM member Richard J. Pasqualini Jr. said the study, distributed to the Groton Town Council as a draft but not released to the public, won't tell them whether Groton would save money by merging its three police departments into one.

The report by the consultant, Police Executive Research Forum, is instead expected to discuss topics like staffing, calls for service, ways to improve efficiency and best practices among police departments in the town, Groton City and Groton Long Point.

"That's not what the public wants," Pasqualini said. "They want one police department. So it's a $50,000 farce."

The contract was initially for about $40,000, but the town later added $8,000 to $9,000, Town Manager Mark Oefinger said.

He said he has not paid the consultant because the draft is poorly written and contains inaccurate information.

Town councilors said last week the draft was filled with incorrect data and could not be used in its current state. Councilors told Oefinger to give the consultant one more chance to fix the report so it could be salvaged.

"The first issue is we'd like to get the study done," Oefinger said later. "And, obviously, if we get the study done and it's acceptable, we'll pay them."

A representative from the Police Executive Research Forum could not be reached Monday. The nonprofit group has performed studies for municipalities across the country.

Councilor Karen Morton said she believes the study relied too much on information from the departments themselves.

"I think there's something flawed when you decide that you're going to do a study of a number of police departments and you're deriving all your information from the three chiefs of police, who all have a vested interest in making their department be the best, be the one that's dealing with the most crime, the one that's doing the most work," she said.

"I think you get into a kind of territorial type of thing, where each agency wants to look like they're the best of the three," she said.

The draft was due in September, but came out in November, Oefinger said. He said representatives of the city, town and Groton Long Point then met to try to figure out what needed to be revised.

Groton City Mayor Marian Galbraith said the report contained inaccuracies "across the board." She said the last she heard, representatives of the town and two subdivisions were going to meet with the consultant to discuss the draft.

Pasqualini said the study simply asks the wrong questions.

"The public wants to consolidate services. They want one of everything, not three of everything," he said. "And that is not what this study does."

d.straszheim@theday.com

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