BERLIN– Town officials approved several changes aimed at aiding in police recruitment and retention.
The Berlin Town Council voted unanimously this week to approve a variety of measures meant to bring more officers to the town’s police force. The agency has struggled with recruitment and retention in recent years.
“This proposal is definitely necessary,” Councilman Jay Knerr said.
Mayor Zack Tyndall told the council he and the town administrator and the finance director had been meeting with Chief Arnold Downing since June to talk about ways to help with retention and recruitment. As a result, he said a list of eight changes, which would come at a cost of about $75,000, was being presented for the council’s review. The changes include creation of a field training officer shift differential for when officers are training new recruits as well as an inclement weather policy in line with what is provided to the town’s other employees. Also on the list of changes were salary adjustments across the department to equitably compensate officers based on experience and years of service. The town also submitted its application for a study that will be the first step in bringing LEOPS (Law Enforcement Officers’ Pension System) to the department.
Downing noted that the department, which is supposed to have 14 officers, currently has nine. Two officers are out on medical leave and there are three vacancies.
“Right now, as with all municipalities, we’re having difficulties getting applicants,” he said. “When we put out an advertisement and it’s sitting beside other agencies’ we’re inferior to those.”
In addition to recruitment, he said he wanted to be sure the town focused on retention of the officers it did have.
“Retaining the experienced officers you have, that know the citizens, that do a good job every day, that should be one of our paramount things,” Downing said.
The changes will cost the town close to $75,000. While it will be covered with residual salary dollars from department vacancies this year, it will have an impact next year.
“Do know that our goal is to fill all of those (vacancies) and this will lead to a net increase of about $75,000 next fiscal year,” Tyndall said. “We do have something we need to overcome during the budgeting process but this is the recommendation.”
Staff noted that the actual implementation of LEOPS would also have a substantial budget impact, as it will cost an estimated $240,000 a year. Nevertheless the council praised the proposed changes and voted unanimously to approve them.