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FITCHBURG -- The Fitchburg Police Union sent a letter to Mayor Lisa Wong saying that she is out of touch with their union and crime issues in the city, citing what they claim is a lack of communication and money for the department.
"Our membership, your police department, feels that you are out of touch with (the) seriousness of the current law enforcement challenges before us," the letter states.
Wong on Friday rejected those notions and said she's deeply concerned about public safety in the city.
"Of course, I care about the public safety of the community and any notion that I don't is ridiculous," Wong said.
She said the entire community needs to work together to secure the city.
Union President Ronald L'Ecuyer said in an interview the staffing levels are so low that some other officers in the department are already discussing leaving and switching to a different city or a different profession.
"(The community) needs to understand the severity of the cuts at the police department," L'Ecuyer said. "The force reduction is going to definitely affect the service they get."
L'Ecuyer said he wants to know what Wong's plans are for improving the department.
"There's been a serious lack of communication," L'Ecuyer said. "We have no idea what her short term and long term goals are for addressing the staffing levels in the department." Wong said the city needs to find dedicated revenue sources to pay for new staffing positions.

The union's letter states that officers have waited patiently during her eight months in office, but are disappointed in her commitment to public safety initiatives in the city. In her inaugural speech, they said, she did not mention crime-fighting initiatives.
"For the men and women who put their life on the line every day for our community, this was extremely disheartening," the letter states. "Six months later you have three homicides under your watch, plus numerous weapons-related incidents, as well as other violent crimes."
The letter outlines how force reductions have impacted the department. The letter states that the traffic bureau has been eliminated while the drug unit and detective bureaus have both decreased from five patrolmen to three.
The changes were made in July following the passage of the fiscal year 2009 budget.
"Inevitably, your officers are being asked to do more with less," the letter states. "Simply stated, we have more work than we have officers."
The letter said that the level of violence in the city is increasing while there are fewer members of the force.
The union said they have not received any direct communication from Wong.
They said the purchase of five new police cruisers this summer was not a perk of the job -- instead the purchase filled a daily need, like ammunition, ink cartridges, and police radios, which are "basic tools required to provide a service to citizens."
The letter states that former mayors have ignored increases in crime, which they said was "cowardly leadership."
"It may be too early in your tenure to realize the type of mayor you will potentially be," the letter states. "Unfortunately, due to the recent wave of violence, neither we nor the citizens of Fitchburg have the luxury of time."
The letter does not touch on the union's contract, which is expired and has been the subject of ongoing negotiations.
A few City Councilors contacted by The Sentinel & Enterprise said they had not yet seen the letter on Friday, so they couldn't comment on it.
Ward 5 Councilor Joseph Solomito, however, said he has no questions about Wong's commitment to public safety.
"I think she's totally committed to public safety," Solomito said. "It's a number one priority, the real problem is finding the money for it." Solomito said Wong has led the charge in getting increased foot patrols in the city and cited her holding a neighborhood meeting on Congress Street after a homicide there last month.

http://www.sentinelandenterprise.com/police/ci_10297126
 
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