Published October 10. 2013 4:00AM
Add outdated equipment in need of repair or replacement to other problems confronting the New London Police Department, including a roughly one-third reduction in staffing due to an exodus of officers to other departments, along with morale issues.
Since providing for the public safety is the most basic of governmental responsibilities, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio must make addressing these challenges a priority for his administration. He says he is. We shall see.
Public safety in the city has emerged as a top issue in the current City Council race, but don't expect added investment in the department until after the election. Mayor Finizio said it will probably be January, about the midpoint of the fiscal year, before his office has enough fiscal data to be sure the budget will support hiring and an investing in new equipment.
This issue will not go away. Whoever ends up in control of the council, options will remain limited by the fiscal constraints of this cash-strapped city and by a tax base overly reliant on residential properties.
In giving final approval to the budget, the council set aside $500,000 to hire several additional officers in the second half of the fiscal year. Come Jan. 1, this must be a priority.
Deputy Chief Reichard told The Day that a minimum of six patrol cars need replacing and that seven of 17 cameras installed in patrol cars are not working.
Meanwhile, the administration is preparing a report to the council as to why about one-third of officers left the force in the last year or so, taking their city-paid training with them. Likely culprits include the threat of layoffs tied to past budget problems, morale issues and better compensation elsewhere. Once identified, the root causes need to be addressed by the administration.
The mayor tells us these challenges are complicated by the council's decision to pass, over his veto, an ordinance mandating that the police have a minimum four-dog canine unit. There will be more costs associated with meeting that requirement than the council has been willing to recognize, he said.
His honor suggested he may return to the council - the newly elected council - to help set priorities with what money is available. Could the canine debate be revisited? Please, no.
In the second half of his four-year term Mayor Finizio needs to push hard for a capital budget appropriation to pay for needed equipment not only for police, but to replace outdated fire trucks and public works vehicles.
The city's top elected leader points to statistics that show crime trending down. That suggests this is a problem, not a crisis.
It still needs fixing.
That's his job.