Waterford police request extra $250,000 in next budget for personnel costs, including more community service officers

Waterford - The police department is seeking an increase of more than $250,000 in its 2014-15 budget and hopes to spend most of it on personnel costs.

The department's proposal is on the agenda for today's Board of Finance budget hearing.

About $35,000 of the increase is meant for hiring additional community service officers.

Police Chief Murray Pendleton said the anticipated eight to 10 new community service officers would allow sworn, full-time officers to spend more time patrolling. The department currently has four community service officers. The civilian officers work part-time and perform tasks such as security, paperwork and prisoner checks.

"We need to get somebody out on the road. We've got a lot of activity," he said.

Salary increases of 2.5 percent for police and 1.75 percent for clerical and custodial workers are included in the requested appropriations.

"This will be a budget that they'll discuss heavily because it is a significant increase," First Selectman Daniel Steward said, adding that he had asked all departments to refrain from seeking budget increases.

The police department's requested increase would bring next year's budget total to $5.46 million. The Board of Selectmen has recommended a police budget of $5.4 million, with the difference coming mostly out of replacement overtime pay. The line item reflects overtime pay for officers who are covering the shifts of colleagues taking time off.

Pendleton said the selectmen's recommended budget should be sufficient. He said that should an unfunded need arise during 2014-15, there is a chance of the department requesting additional appropriations.

In a letter to Steward, Pendleton wrote that officer staffing levels have been static since 1984, when Crystal Mall was built. The department has 40 patrol units.

"Since the Crystal Mall was built, there has been more than three times the mall's square footage built in town," he wrote.

Criminal arrests by the department increased 26 percent in 2012-13, he said.

Steward said that the uptick in shopping centers has driven up crime rates by providing more opportunities for shoplifting and by drawing greater traffic on Route 85. More cars on the road leads to more accidents, he said.

The selectmen chose to recommend less replacement overtime spending so as to stay in line with what the department spent in 2012-13, according to Steward. The selectmen propose $196,250 while the police department requested $256,250 for replacement overtime in 2014-15.

The department has been allocated $150,000 this year for that purpose. In 2012-13, it paid $190,647 in replacement overtime.

t.townsend@theday.com

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