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January 22. 2014 9:26PM

Report says more officers needed in Nashua

NASHUA — A new workload assessment report suggests that the city's police force should have at least four additional patrolmen — positions the police chief says could be used downtown and in the Tree Streets neighborhood.

On Tuesday, results from the preliminary report were shared with the Nashua Police Commission, indicating that the police department should have 87.5 functional patrol officers. Currently, there are 83 functioning officers within the department's patrol division, according to Capt. James Lima.

In order to determine the proper workload assessment, standards from the International Association of Chiefs of Police were compared to local police data, such as the number of calls for service and the average time per call to create a custom workload assessment.

Using data from December 2012, the department determined it had 106,647 calls for service in 2012, with an average call taking about 39 minutes, retired police Capt. William Pease said.

"What we should have is 87.5 functional officers," Pease said. During December 2012, the department had only 77 functional officers as part of the patrol division, but it has since increased its strength to 83 functioning patrol officers, Pease said.

Overall, the department has an approved authorized strength of 179 members of the police force, with 177 currently functioning since two officers are in training or attending the police academy.

Before Police Chief John Seusing or the Nashua Police Commission make any formal recommendation for additional hires, Seusing said it is important to review how many civilian roles are being filled by sworn officers.

For instance, he said there is currently no civilian booking officer working third shift, but that an officer is pulled off the street to fill that role when necessary. That civilian position should ideally be filled by a civilian, Seusing said.

"I think we need to kind of flesh that out before we determine how many more officers we need to hire," Seusing told the Nashua Police Commission.

If additional officers are approved, Seusing said the department should be focusing its manpower on Main Street, the downtown area and the Tree Streets community.

Those areas seem to have significant crime levels, according to Seusing, who said it would be his suggestion to have more visibility with walking or bike patrols. Permanent walking routes on Main Street and a heavier presence of bike patrols would be beneficial, he said.

"I would agree with that," said Alderman Mike Soucy, Ward 5.

Lima said overtime costs have been reduced since six patrol officers were added. He also said the number of functioning officers fluctuates, adding the force is currently at the high mark with just two officers in training or at the academy.

"But that could change at any time," Lima said.

The comprehensive workload assessment report is about 30 pages and is still being finalized. Once the report is complete, Commissioner Thomas Pappas, board chairman, said it will be made available to the public and to the Board of Aldermen for review.

khoughton@newstote.com


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