East Lyme studies moving to independent police force
East Lyme — A newly formed task force is studying whether or not the town should move to an independent police force.
The question posed for the task force is who should manage the town's police department: a resident state trooper or a hired police chief?
The task force will report back to the selectmen in 60 days about whether or not they recommend the selectmen endorse moving to an independent police force, said First Selectman Mark Nickerson.
Nickerson appointed six people to the committee — which began meeting this month — from a variety of backgrounds, including retired law enforcement and a former Board of Finance member.
"We are really looking for an unbiased opinion of the information," Nickerson said.
He said the escalating costs of the resident trooper program — and the anticipation that the costs could continue to increase in the future — started the discussion.
Under the resident trooper program, East Lyme pays 85 percent of the trooper's salary and 100 percent of overtime and fringe benefits, Nickerson said.
But he said the discussion is really about who would best manage and be responsible for officers.
East Lyme's police force has 22 officers, but the resident trooper program was designed for rural towns with a small number of police officers, Nickerson said.
The task force will focus on who would better manage and supervise the police force and how to best serve the public going forward, he said.
The task force will look at factors including what the town would gain or lose by moving to an independent force, what defines a resident trooper and what defines a police chief, and what policies or ordinances would be needed if the town decides to move to an independent force, Nickerson said.
Police sergeants will be brought in by the task force to answer questions, he said.
The task force also will talk to towns in the region, including Ledyard, which recently created an independent police force, and Montville, whose independent police force initiative did not pass at referendum but learned lessons along the way, he said.
If the selectmen ultimately endorse moving to an independent police force, it would be the first of several other steps in the process.
"We're in the discovery phase right now," Nickerson said.