City officials are pushing to fill police positions and bring community policing back to the downtown and the French Hill neighborhoods.
“We are hoping to have [community policing] back in the spring," said Mayor Arthur Vigeant at a recent meeting explaining the issue extends to the fire department which is also down personnel. “I want those spots filled in the police and fire department."
Two officers that had been doing full-time, community policing had to be reassigned to patrol duty due to injuries and openings in the department, said Police Chief Mark Leonard.
“It’s the additional burdons the long-term injuries place on us that have really been the cause to pull out the community policing officers," he said.
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The police officers patrolled the French Hill neighborhood on bicycles and were stationed in the substations on Broad and Main Streets. These are denser areas that see more calls such as those for noise complaints and neighborhood issues. The officers work closely with code enforcement, with the neighborhoods benefitting from the presence of police familiar with the issues, said Leonard.
"[These are] older and more clustered neighborhoods with a variety of issues that really lend themselves to community policing officers,” he said stating that the two officers still interact with residents in the neighborhood.
The officers had to be pulled to meet the core requirements of the department, said Leonard.
"When patrol shifts go down we need to reshift and pull from those specialized positions,” he said explaining that one detective has been reassigned to patrol duty.
There are multiple officers in training or about to enter training, said Leonard. The training process itself includes five months in the police academy and then 10 weeks in the field training. It will be an extended period of time until the department is up to full force.
“This is going to be a process continuing for the next year really," said Leonard.
He said that the community policing officers should be back by spring or summer.