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Swansea losing police to larger cities

By Jay Pateakos
Herald News Staff Reporter
Posted Sep 21, 2008 @ 07:24 PM
Last update Sep 22, 2008 @ 12:30 AM

Swansea -
Swansea police have lost a total of seven officers to other departments in Massachusetts and Rhode Island over the last few years, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down.
Police Chief George Arruda said officers have left his department for jobs in East Providence, Pawtucket and Warwick, R.I., the Fall River Police Department and the Somerset Fire Department.
The departing officers often lose money in the exchange, Arruda said. Officers pay a $2,500 entry fee for the police academy that they would get back after 36 months of service - but many officers don't make it that far.
High turnover is a problem in police departments
nationwide, Arruda said, based on conversations with chiefs in New England and elsewhere.
"There's this feeling that you go to work for a major city, there will be more opportunities for advancement or allegedly more action then they are getting at their own police department," said Arruda. "But the duties and responsibilities of a police officer are the same no matter where you go, and Swansea is a very busy place for a police officer with a huge transient population. Last year alone we answered 27,000 calls."
Deputy Chief Robert Furtado has been with the Swansea Police Department for more than 30 years, and recalls trying to become a police officer and how tough it was to secure a spot with the department.
"But if you got one, and stayed out of trouble, you could have a career for life. You'd never get rich, but you'd have decent benefits and retirement," said Furtado. "But the new generation is not willing to work. They leave after a few years, lose the retirement they had built up, some even take a cut in pay. They have their own reasons, but it's like the big fish in a little pond and little fish in a big pond scenario."
Both Arruda and Furtado admit how frustrating it gets to hear that another police officer is leaving after working with them for years, putting them through the reserve police officer training, the academy and other training.
A. Wayne Sampson, executive director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, Swansea's situation is not as dire as some other municipalities in Massachusetts.
Sampson said some town departments have lost 20 to 30 officers in just a few years time.
"The days of a police officer staying in one city or town for their whole career has quickly diminished. For years, Massachusetts was one of the few states that wasn't having this kind of problem, but now they are," Sampson said. "Police officers are leaving these positions thinking things will open up for them if they work in a city or there'll be more chance for advancement, but they don't realize they'll be going against many more people for that position."
Using California as an example, Sampson said the search for police officers is so bad that they are flying officers in from the Midwest to work for three full-day shifts and then flying them back home. The problem is so severe that some police chiefs are denying the transfers due to a shortage of staffing, though Chief Arruda said he is not one of them.
"It's been extremely hard on a number of small communities where the loss of one, two or three officers can be devastating," said Sampson. "There's no longer that loyalty factor."
And there's also no quick fix or long-term solution for the problem.
The Swansea Police Department is back down to 31 officers after losing another employee last month, leaving it one short of the town approved limit of 32. And Chief Arruda is once again consulting the list of reserve police officers. Two active reservists are ready to step into a role as a police officer, but have yet to participate in the police academy, which will take them out of Arruda's department for 22 straight weeks.
"We are a small town police department, but officers working here get a well-rounded education because of that. They get experiences from a lot of venues, are able to work on an investigation from beginning to end," said Arruda. "There's this mentality these days that grass is greener next door, but this is an excellent community to be a police officer. Being a police officer here gives you the opportunity to make a difference."

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I'm sorry, but this "27,000 calls" type statistic I hear from every police department administrator is getting old. Read the logs and tell me exactly what a "call" is. Subtract the cruiser fueling calls, mail runs, courtesy transports, traffic stops, and other petty crap and that number will be cut down to a third. I was perusing one rural central Massachusetts's agency's online IMC logs and every phone call coming into the station is logged in as a "call".

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574 Posts
Subtract the cruiser fueling calls, mail runs, courtesy transports, traffic stops, and other petty crap and that number will be cut down to a third.
Very true. Also, don't forget everytime a midnight shift unit rattles a door for a building check, or drives through a parking lot with the spotlight on, etc.

Same thing with arrest stats. I see some agencies around here pulling arrest reports everytime they give a drunk a courtesy ride home, or every time they write somone a ticket for driving without a license.
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