With a new officer expected to be selected and sworn in soon, the number of Madison police officers should soon be 28, down 20 percent from several years ago.
Funding for the new officer is included in the borough's 2012 budget due to public safety concerns, and will allow the department to have greater flexibility and reinstate the Alcohol and Narcotics Task Force, borough council president and public safety liaison Jeannie Tsukamoto said.
Madison Police Chief John Trevena is expected to finish interviewing police officer candidates soon and then make his recommendation to the governing body, Tsukamoto said Tuesday.
While staffing levels are being increased this year, lower staffing levels contributed to poor morale within the department back in 2010, according to a deposition given by PBA President Officer Anthony Maccario in March.
The number of sworn Madison police officers dropped from 35 in 2008 to 26 officers earlier this year due to attrition, a hiring freeze and replacing sworn officers with civilian dispatchers as part of a larger effort to reduce employee-related expenses in the borough, Tsukamoto said.
There are four civilian dispatchers. They were hired by the borough to free up officers who would normally be working as dispatchers.
Giving his deposition in March for a lawsuit filed by a former patrolman, Maccario responded to a question about morale in the department around August of 2010.
"There's several issues that, you know, that are unrelated to P that, you know, may have contributed to poor morale," Maccario said, according to a transcript of the proceeding. "I would say lack of manpower being one of the main ones. So I wouldn't set the morale at a very high level."
The department's newest officer, Patrolman Vincent Dellavalle, joined the department in March, filling a vacancy left by the retirement of school resource officer Wayne Reed, and bringing the total number of sworn officers to 27.
At that meeting, in recommending approval of the resolution adding Dellavalle to the force, Tsukamoto said she was concerned about the safety of the borough's first responders, service availability, response times and potential increases in criminal activity.
"Based on reports and statistics from the Police and Fire departments on incidents involving alcohol, drugs, gangs, sexual and other assaults, burglary, theft, fire, and alarm tampering, we are very concerned about public safety in general," she said. "We are concerned about the safety of our first responders, service availability and reduction of response time to our residents, the potential increase of serious crimes, and drugs/alcohol and gangs in our schools and neighborhood. As discussed during the budget meetings, the Police Department has reduced the number of sworn officers from 35 in 2008 to 26 with 4 civilian dispatchers today."
The police union has been working without a contract since 2010, and the arbitration outcome is expected soon. Tsukamoto said the hiring of the additional officer should not be contingent on the outcome.
"Since an additional officer was included in the 2012 budget due to various public safety concerns, this hiring should not be contingent upon the arbitration outcome," she said. "With the additional officer, we hope to re-establish the Alcohol and Narcotics Task Force to provide more flexible coverage and greater focus in much needed areas."