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tigerwoody said:
I hear there is a shortage in Brockton. Anyone know if they are hiring off this civil service exam?
I heard they need 10 to 15 officers and several are ready to be hired because some have the full time police academy training. The Mayor is trying to get more federal aid but the feds say they are minus at least 10 officers for the mandated federal approval. They will be hiring if they want the federal money the question is when and do they by law have to hire from the civil service rehire list. I believe there are approximately 175 or 180 POs on Brockton the federal government whats to see it 190 or more before they start dishing out more money. The Brockton Enterpise have stories running every once in a while about the BPD.

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I was in Andreas in Ranham yesterday. They were putting together the kakis for the new recruit class starting on Monday in Plymouth. There were a TON of uniforms with Brockton patches on them. So it looks like they already hired.

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From today's Enterprise

A force stretched thin
By Maureen Boyle, Enterprise staff writer

Brockton police execute tactical maneuvers in the gymnasium of South Junior High School earlier this year. Such training, along with honor guard duty, contract clauses and city statutes stretch thin the already strained Brockton Police Department, leaving some to worry that public safety is jeopardized. (Chris Meyer/The Enterprise)
By Maureen Boyle, Enterprise staff writer

From his Legion Parkway pizza shop, Telly Roussopoulos knows when the bike officer assigned to the downtown Brockton beat is off. That's when he'll spot groups of people congregating along the street.

"When police are here, they leave right away," said Roussopoulos, who opened his shop 33 years ago. Crime in downtown Brockton is not as bad as it was in the 1980s, Roussopoulos and others say, but they'd like to see more officers walking the beat to boot dope dealers out of the business district.

"You have to keep them moving," Frank Famularo, a Legion Parkway barber, said of street drug dealers. "You can't give them an inch because they'll take a mile."

Experts agree a visible police presence reduces crime and, just as importantly, makes merchants and shoppers in a business district feel safer.

"If people see police out, if people see walking beats in the downtown area, they will go there and shop there," said Edward Connors, president of the Institute for Law and Justice, a law-enforcement think tank in Alexandria, Va. "There is a perception of safety."

But while Brockton residents and merchants might want a cop walking a beat every day, there are no formal foot patrols in the city.

"Foot patrols are a luxury," said Police Chief Paul Studenski. "When you get a prisoner, where do you put him? I'd love to have more foot patrols but you have to look at the bigger picture."

The bigger picture of police staffing has been a longstanding issue in the city's struggle to curb street violence and burnish Brockton's image. Now, several factors are converging that could put the issue at the top of the city's agenda.

Brockton is negotiating new contracts with police unions and the chief, but the department's $15.8 million budget for fiscal 2004 does not include any money for pay raises. That means the City Council would have to approve any additional costs from new contracts and find a way to pay for them, and all 11 council seats and the mayor's office are up for election in November.

City officials face the challenge of striking a balance between putting enough cops on the street to combat crime and controlling costs in the face of cutbacks in state aid. That may not be an easy task.

An in-depth examination by The Enterprise of government records and interviews with city officials, union leaders, law enforcement experts and others revealed a complex set of factors that occasionally limit the number of cops patrolling the streets to three. The complex system also contains hidden costs that could drive up the price taxpayers pay for police staffing.

The key factors that affect how many cops are on the street and the cost of that coverage include:

l A police contract with generous provisions for sick days, vacations and other time off, which sometimes limits the number of officers available for duty. The provisions also cost taxpayers thousands of dollars when retiring officers get "buy backs" for unused sick time, and boost overtime costs to pay for officers to cover for their absent colleagues.

For example, police officers have accrued more than 20,000 hours in compensatory time - the equivalent of a year's work by 11 officers - a liability that could cost taxpayers many thousands of dollars down the road if the time isn't used.

l Lingering bitterness and anger from layoffs during the city's fiscal crisis of 1991 that caused the department's two police unions to take a hard line in subsequent contract negotiations and in practice to go after every penny and every benefit to which they are entitled.

l An erosion of morale caused by several cases of police misconduct, including a former chief who went to jail for stealing drug evidence and a patrolman who publicly shot at himself and then accused an innocent man of the act.

l Such off-duty activities as the police honor guard. Its 26 members have logged more than 2,600 hours of compensatory time appearing at functions in the last year alone. Taxpayers will foot the bill when officers cash in unused "time due" at retirement.

l A thinned-down police force that has not rebounded from the 1991 layoffs, partly due to City Hall's conservative hiring practices since Brockton nearly went bankrupt that year. And while Chief Paul Studenski has shuffled a number of officers from administrative duties into the uniform division and onto the street in the past two years, a lieutenant and sergeant - along with a clerk - still oversee paid detail assignments in a practice that dates to before the layoffs.

In 1986 - three years before the layoffs - there were 198 sworn police officers, including the chief. In 1991, right after the layoffs, there were 147 officers.

Now, there are 168 officers working on a department authorized to have a work force of 190.

"Compared to what it was, things are much better," said Patrolman Paul Washek, who now writes grants and is the stress officer for the department.

The 168 officers today include 90 uniformed patrolmen spread over three shifts daily. Twelve of those officers - four on each shift - work inside the station, staffing the front desk, booking prisoners and working in communications.

As a result, the actual number of officers working the street on a shift can range on any given day from three to 12 - depending on vacations, sick days, injuries, days off and training schedules.

At least a third of the patrol officers are not working each day, police officials say.

Those who are working field more than 140,000 calls to police yearly. And the coming year will see the retirement of seven more cops.

It's an issue people worry about.

"Brockton has a need for a certain level of police staff," said Karen Bigley a Brockton native who lives on Prospect Street. "If I call, I hope they get here quickly."

Cheryl King, who lives on Arthur Street in the Village neighborhood in the northeast part of the city, said there aren't enough police but she doesn't expect staffing to increase.

"Nobody wants to spend money," King said.

Slow to rebuild

The Brockton Police Department is chronically short-staffed, often relying on overtime and compensatory time to put extra officers on the street.

The department's $15.8 million budget for 2004 includes $1.3 million for overtime, including $207,000 for a special night shift and $100,000 for license enforcement. But the department has also used federal grants, some funneled through the Plymouth County District Attorney's office, that can be used to pay for overtime in high crime neighborhoods.

Brockton has not rebounded from the 1991 police layoffs - despite the state and national economic boom of the mid- to late-1990s - partly because the city has been reluctant to take on new employees who might have to be let go if tougher financial times return.

For example, Brockton officials turned down some federal grants to hire more officers because the city would have had to pick up their pay when the grants ran out. The price tag for a new, college educated officer - including training, outfitting, pay and other costs - is about $66,000 in the first year.

"It is a mind-set in the city to be conservative," said John Condon, the city's chief financial officer. "They don't want to repeat that time. It really was a difficult time."

Brockton's conservative fiscal strategy in recent years resulted in a $19 million surplus, but the city tapped those funds this year to avoid the kinds of cuts in personnel and services some communities made when the state cut local aid.

But that approach also caused the Police Department to lag in staffing levels behind departments in such similarly-sized cities as Fall River, Quincy, New Bedford and Lynn.

"Brockton is still 20 percent behind the next comparable city," said James Machado, director of the Massachusetts Police Association.

Contract has costly perks

The police contract - with its provisions for sick days, vacations, compensatory time and other benefits seldom seen in the private sector - is another key force driving day-to-day staffing assignments inside and outside headquarters.

For example, some senior officers nearing retirement are using up weeks - sometimes months - of sick and compensatory time before they leave the force.

One supervisor, Lt. Charles Lincoln, was out on contractually allowed time for an accumulated four months last year and the equivalent of more than three months this year - while all the time he held down a second full-time job as security director at the Plymouth county jail.

The city is also picking up the tab for five people who are out injured because of long-term illness and aren't expected to ever be well enough to return to the force.

Capt. Frank Fagone is out with a back injury and has filed retirement paperwork. Lt. Fotis Colocousis - who also plans to retire next year - is out after undergoing knee surgery.

Lt. Arthur Sullivan is using sick time after undergoing bypass surgery, officer James Doherty is out after suffering an aneurysm and Capt. Robert Kelley is out after suffering a stroke. Kelley has told the chief he wants to return to work if he can get a doctor's OK.

Until those supervisors are forced through Civil Service onto disability retirement - a process that can take months or years - or they file the paperwork themselves, as some are now doing, the city will continue to pick up those salaries.

"There is no incentive for them to go," Councilor-at-large James Harrington said. "We are paying the money and we're not getting anybody to do the work."

What happens when the available police force shrinks?

It sends a message to criminals, the mayor said.

"That is not a comfortable situation to be in," Mayor John T. Yunits Jr. said. "The bad guys figure it out real quick."

And it costs taxpayers money when the department gives other officers overtime work to replace absent police.

The contract's provisions for time off can also cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars annually when officers retire and cash-in their unused time.

l Colocousis, set to retire Feb. 28, will receive $99,369 when he retires. That includes $55,785 in unused sick time; $19,441 in vacation time, and $24,142 in unused compensatory time.

l Lincoln, set to retire Jan. 8, will receive $63,397, including $45,635 in unused sick time; $13,189 in vacation time, and $4,572 in compensatory time.

l Sgt. Francis Riordan, set to retire Jan. 12, will receive $75,648, including $47,720 in sick time, $16,337 in vacation time and $11,590 in time due.

"It is time that is already earned," said Donald Mills, president of the Brockton Police Association.

Process 'not fast enough'

If an officer is injured on the job, he or she receives 100 percent of his or her pay - tax free. If forced onto disability retirement, the injured officer gets, again tax-free, 72 percent of his or her pay.

Moving an officer to disability status - under which the pension is paid by the state pension fund, not the city - is slow, though.

And until that happens, city taxpayers foot the bill.

"The process is not fast enough for me," said Charles Logan, Ward 7 city councilor. "It takes months and months."

And while the city spends overtime to fill slots for absent supervisors, it is unable to hire replacements until the individuals are officially off the force.

That is because a local law spells out how many captains, lieutenants and sergeants the force must have. According to the city ordinance, there are six captains, 12 lieutenants and 19 sergeants.

One of the lieutenant slots is held - at least on paper - by Studenski, who has been pressing the City Council to allow him to hire more supervisors.

Councilor-at-large James Harrington said that rather than have more supervisors, the city needs to get those now out injured onto the state disability rolls and off the city payroll so it can make more hires and promotions.

What does all this mean for residents and community leaders who are praying there isn't a repeat of last summer's violence when 12 people were killed?

It means they worry about finding a police officer when they need one.

Bernard A. Beaton, a former Marine now living on Cherry Street, said even the regular patrols through his neighborhood aren't enough at night.

"This is a tough neighborhood," Beaton said. "This is an old mill town. There is a lot of drugs, a lot of drugs, a lot of crime."

City studied 'to death'

The mayor said he considered hiring a consultant to study police operations to find ways to make it operate more efficiently, but dropped the idea because even the lowest price was too costly.

"We got one price of $24,500," Yunits said of the study. "I'm not sure we can afford that."

However, for about the same cost, the mayor and police chief arranged to hire - improperly - the son of a veteran detective as a park police officer. Officials admitted Jason Persampieri, the son of longtime Detective Dominic Persampieri, was improperly hired because the job was not opened to other candidates, as required by union contract, and the hiring was not approved by the Park Commission.

The city spent nearly $22,000 to train and pay Jason Persampieri, and then spent more than $3,400 to lay him off before he ever hit the streets. The $3,400 included accrued vacation and holiday pay and two weeks severance pay. He was formally laid off June 30.

Harrington said the city doesn't need to do any more studies of how to run the department.

"Everything in this city had been studied to death," he said. "We spend all the money for a report and it sits on a shelf and nobody looks at it again."

Harrington said officials need to take a hard look at all city departments, including the police, and make changes similar to those in the private sector.

Wanted: More cops on street

While officials debate the running of the Police Department, merchants and residents just want to see cops patrolling the streets.

Ernest Pettiford, owner of Ernie's Construction on Main Street and a longtime city resident, sees more police these days but says it's not enough.

"With the number of people that have been coming into the city in the last few years, you need more," he said. "Brockton seems to be lagging behind."

Peter Daphnis, president of the Downtown Brockton Association, said he has seen more cops downtown since last summer, when a string of shootings exploded in the city. He sees fewer problems when an officer is there.

"The minute he leaves, the stuff comes right back," Daphnis said.

The city has no formal foot patrol and while there are three designated bicycle patrols, those slots go vacant if the officers are sick, on vacation or - in one case recently - on military leave for months.

"Sometimes you call and the officer is there right away. Sometimes it takes a while," said Mohammad Abedin, owner of Legion Food Mart. "When they are here, it is good."

The bottom line for resident Wayne Gallagher is a strong and regular police presence.

He said he sees police officers in cruisers but not many walking the beat, a patrol that would make people feel safer.

"It is always good to know there's a police officer around," Gallagher said.
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