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Police Chief Says School, Community Officers Could Be Put On Patrol To Cut Overtime Costs

Jenna Carlesso

November 15, 2011

Police Chief Daryl K. Roberts said Monday he is considering pulling community service and school resource officers off their beats and put them on patrol shifts as he grapples with budget cuts.

Although he hasn't made a formal proposal to city officials yet, Roberts said the move is a "strong possibility" and necessary to decrease overtime costs.

"Our budget has been reduced," Roberts said. "In order to cut spending, I may have to cut services. Some neighborhoods will lose their beat officers."

Mayor Pedro Segarra's proposed budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year set aside $37.4 million for the police department. The city council in May cut $800,000 from the police budget $300,000 from executive command level expenses and $500,000 from the police overtime account. Segarra approved the reductions.

Roberts said he is also considering cutting overtime for the city's shooting task force, a group composed of city and state police, inspectors from the chief state's attorney's office, a DEA agent, three officers from suburban police departments and a representative from the correction department. He did not have a specific amount for how much he would cut.

The mayor has praised the task force's success in quelling city gun violence. The group has made at least 80 arrests since it was formed in early July.

Roberts said he warned the council in May that a cut to the police overtime budget would have a drastic impact on services. The effect of removing officers from neighborhood beats and school campuses will be felt in a breakdown of the relationship between police and residents, he said.

"There will be no more proactive stuff. It will eliminate their presence," Roberts said. "Guys will just be taking radio calls and responding to stuff. There will be no more relationships with the community."

Richard Holton, president of the Hartford Police Union, echoed Roberts' concerns.

"When you put a price tag on the safety of the public as well as on the safety of the officers, it becomes a bad policy," he said. "That's a concern of the union."

City Councilman Kenneth Kennedy said Roberts should consider alternatives.

"I think we would want to look at other solutions," he said Monday. "There's no council person who's going to support the elimination of community policing or school resource officers. Let's look at what's driving the problem; I'd be interested in understanding why a $500,000 cut to overtime is having such a drastic impact."

Jared Kupiec, Segarra's chief of staff, said Monday that the mayor's office has not received an official proposal from Roberts, but had heard about Roberts' idea.

After the election last week, Segarra said he would advocate more community policing and said he would focus on building stronger ties between residents and the police department.

"It deeply troubles the mayor because of his focus on community policing," Kupiec said. "We fully expect that the chief will engage in constructive dialogue with us. At this point, we expect the manpower allocation [within the department] to stay the same."

David Panagore, the city's chief operating officer, said representatives from the management and budget office are reviewing police department expenditures.

"We need to understand what really is driving the overtime [costs]," he said. "We need to be able to analyze the problem, not just respond to a given circumstance."

Mark Dupuis, a spokesman for the chief state's attorney's office, said the office appreciates Roberts' budget concerns and has worked to secure alternative funding for the shooting task force.

"One of our concerns since the beginning of the task force is how we would staff it and pay for it, and we continue to work on that," he said.

The task force recently received a roughly $38,000 federal grant that will be used to fund overtime and other expenses, Dupuis said.

City resident and activist Hyacinth Yennie said community activists would resist any attempt to remove community service officers and that doing so would harm to the community's relationship with the police department.

"For years the only ones we have been able to count on are our community service officers," she said. "Patrols are just running from place to place and have no relationship with the community. Our quality of life will deteriorate to zero."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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