The commission voted on the budget request at a special meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 18.
During a discussion of the 2013-14 budget proposal, Police Chief John Troxell said he has wanted to add a 10th officer to the patrol force for the past three years. The department currently has nine patrol officers, three sergeants, one detective and one chief.
Rick Phillips, commission chairman, explained there are three veteran officers who could retire at any time, and because it takes upwards of one year to train a new officer, it would make sense to add a 10th officer now to complement the force in case of any upcoming vacancies.
The commission was originally going to ask that the 10th officer in the proposed budget be a School Resource Officer (SRO), to be assigned to the schools as an enhanced security measure and to serve as a role model for students. The SRO would work on the department’s patrol force in the summer.
Chief Troxell discussed the SRO position with the Board of Education at a school board meeting on Dec. 17 and also at the selectmen’s meeting Dec. 20.
The school board has been studying school resource officers, but as of this time, has not decided if it wants one.
However, at the same school board meeting, the tragic shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14 were also discussed and Superintendent Colleen Palmer asked the chief to add a patrol officer full-time on School Road during the school days for added safety and security.
With the superintendent’s request in mind, the commission voted to add three positions to its budget request — a 10th patrol officer, an officer to cover School Road on a full-time basis, and a School Resource Officer on a contingency basis — subject to the school board’s approval. Should the school board not approve the hiring of an SRO, the position would not be filled.
The creation of an SRO position is not a “knee jerk” reaction to Sandy Hook, according to Mr. Phillips. “We want parents and children to be safe on the school campus. An SRO could make daily rounds from school to school. The schools are our industry in town, all the schools are on one campus and the highest volume of traffic in town is on School Road, so that is our primary focus,” he said.
There has been past precedence for asking for an officer position on a contingency basis. A couple years ago, the commission asked for a captain’s position, which was approved by the Board of Selectmen and added to the budget request. The commission ultimately decided not to appoint an officer to the captain’s position and it was not filled.
The cost for three new officers would result in a substantial increase in the police department’s budget. The proposed annual salary for each officer would be $55,121; holiday pay is estimated at $3,736 per officer; training,$1,500 per officer; rifles, $855 each; handguns, $477 each; uniforms, $425 each; uniform cleaning, $357 each; shoes, $180 each; and $1,095 for Tasers for each officer.
There would also be expenses outside the budget for employee benefits, and other items.
The overall police department budget request for 2013-14 is $1,925,754, which is $244,083 more than the 2012-13 budget of $1,681,671.
In addition to the three officers, the department is requesting $7,740 more for contracted cleaning services.
From the town’s vehicle sinking fund, the department is requesting $58,000 for two Ford police interceptor utility 4×4 vehicles and $27,756 for police accessories for the vehicles.
The police are also requesting $15,598 from the capital budget to overhaul and replace the department’s computer network servers.
The proposed budget will be reviewed by the selectmen.