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December 06. 2013 9:38PM

Manchester needs more police department argues in staffing report

MANCHESTER — Manchester police are calling for backup.

How much backup could be coming remains unclear, but the Manchester Police Department has provided members of the Board of Aldermen plenty to consider in a 41-page report breaking down what each division has been doing with its current staffing.

Chief David Mara gave members of the Committee on Public Safety the MPD's "Workload Assessment for Increase of Complement" at a meeting this week.

Mara has said the city needs more officers, but the report does not say much about specific numbers. It is more a summary of what the department has and list areas administrators say have been stretched the most.

"It's not a wish list. It's him assessing the police department and breaking it down by division," Ward 3 Alderman Pat Long said Friday.

Long, a member of the Public Safety Committee, said the full board is likely to address police staffing levels once Mayor Ted Gatsas finishes crunching numbers and submits the new budget.

"I don't know whether they'll ask for a number. The chief knows he's not going to get 20 people," Long said. "This gives us a plan to look at. We can come to our own conclusions."

Mara did not respond to messages seeking comment Friday.

After a summer spike in home burglaries, Mara said the department was working with about 220 officers. Ideally, he said a city the size of Manchester should have about 275.

That's a large gap and one unlikely to be bridged in the new budget.

Gatsas said Friday he has started work on the city's next spending plan, which is due before the end of March. He has seen the MPD assessment and will consider it as he allocates how much money is needed where throughout the city.

"Chief Mara has done a great job with the report and bringing it forward," Gatsas said. "But it's still too early to say where we're at and whether there's funds available."

The report provides a summary for the MPD's six divisions: investigative, special enforcement, administrative, legal, patrol and community policing. Under the "challenges and needs" for the patrol division, the report noted a drop-off in regular neighborhood patrols.

"We encourage and expect our officers to patrol neighborhoods. However, officers are often busy responding to calls and do not have the time to regularly patrol neighborhoods as we have in the past," the report said.

Under the investigative division, an increase in violent crime attributed to many factors has "greatly taxed" resources and had a ripple effect throughout.

"Proactive policing has suffered and/or become largely non-existent," the report said. "Detectives have become reactive and are not afforded the opportunity to formulate and implement action plans geared toward crime prevention."




dalden@unionleader.com


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