Ledyard approves ordinance to create independent police department
Ledyard — Police officers on hand were ecstatic Wednesday night as the Town Council unanimously approved an ordinance that will create an independent police department in the town.
In a public hearing before the Town Council meeting, only two residents spoke about the ordinance, both of whom expressed support for the move.
"I wish a lot more of the town was here," Councilor Stephen Eichelberg said before the council voted, with others nodding in agreement.
Councilor Fred Allyn III, also chairman of the finance committee, said during the public hearing that he expects the new department to bring a host of positives, including leadership continuity, increased department efficiencies, long-term savings and increased grant funding availability.
He noted that the town still will benefit from state police services such as bomb squads even when it transitions away from the resident state trooper model.
Ledyard, which has been considering creating an independent department for several years, was given an extra incentive when the state increased the cost of its lone resident state trooper from $146,000 to $190,000 for the current fiscal year.
But, Councilor Bill Saums reiterated on Wednesday, that's not the only reason to make the change.
"We have the opportunity to bring a leadership position to this town and keep it," he said. "I think we have a fine police department, but we can have an outstanding police department."
Going forward, the town will have to spend about $70,000 in upfront costs for things such as a vehicle for the chief, a fingerprinting scanner, breath testing equipment and radio signal boosters.
Until the new police facility is finished, it also will have to work with other departments when it comes to detention of prisoners — something Allyn said shouldn't be a problem.
In the coming weeks and months, town officials will finalize what it is they want in a police chief, search for candidates and, ultimately, sign a contract.
Allyn has said that, based on what is typical in towns similar to Ledyard across the state, the chief likely will cost about $130,000 annually with benefits and cellphone costs added.
By ordinance, once chosen, the police chief will become a member of the Public Safety Commission and will have to work with the commission — as well the mayor and the Town Council — to help establish, administer and oversee the department's policies and procedures.
Speaking by phone on Thursday, Ledyard Police Lt. Ken Creutz said the council's decision has "created quite the fervor at the police department."
"Ecstatic would be an understatement," Creutz said of his own reaction. "I have been waiting for this to happen for the entire 18 years that I've been with Ledyard Police Department. To see it actually happen last night is an incredible thing."
Creutz, who said he's working to lay the groundwork for the independent force, said he's confident it will "produce quality leadership from the top moving down."
"I think that what I look forward to the most is a positive change in the way we do business," he said. "Ultimately, we should produce a better product as far as police services for the town. That's what I've always been looking to achieve."