Nashua police chief pitches for more officers
NASHUA — The aldermanic Budget Review Committee will soon have to decide whether to honor a request from the city’s police chief to increase the department’s force.
This week, Police Chief John Seusing presented findings from a new workload assessment to the committee, along with his recommendations to add three more patrolmen, three drug unit members and one additional Problem Oriented Police unit member.
“It comes down to funding. I understand that,” Seusing told aldermen, stressing the need to combat a heroin problem and other drug-related crimes in Nashua.
By making some positions civilian roles within the department, the chief said he would be able to implement his proposed changes if city officials increased the department’s authorized strength from 179 officers to 183 authorized officers.
While Seusing said he could justify requesting even more officers, he understands there are budget limitations and other departments have funding requests as well. Additional officers, he said, could begin to address some serious drug-related problems facing the city.
“It is not going to have an effect overnight,” he said, acknowledging that four extra officers will not be the magic cure. Still, Seusing said it is a step in the right direction to address workload concerns and drug issues.
His request, which is being supported by the Nashua Police Commission, was made after a 2013 workload assessment report was completed last month. In addition to the hiring of extra police officers, some additional reassignments are being requested within the department.
“Visibility makes a difference,” said William Pease, accreditation manager with the department. Officers must share their time between calls, prevention initiatives and administrative work, according to Pease, who said if patrolmen spend too much time responding to calls, prevention efforts will take a back seat.
Capt. James Lima echoed those concerns, explaining the call volume continues to rise. And, on average, officers are conducting about 10,000 more traffic stops per year since 2009, which has resulted in 500 fewer accidents annually.
“But we have seen some very alarming things here in Nashua,” said Seusing, explaining that heroin overdoses are on the rise, and there was a 40 percent increase in armed robberies last summer — all of which he associates with drugs.
“That is a little scary to me,” said Alderman Ken Siegel, Ward 9, maintaining the crime issues and the drugs can be “so destructive to the overall value of the city.”
The city must react to the heroin influx if it wants to prevent the community from slipping into a situation where the problems are ignored for too long and it will be too difficult to overcome, said Siegel.
Alderman David Schoneman, Ward 3, said he fully supports police efforts and is sympathetic to the drug use in Nashua, but questioned the logic behind Seusing’s staffing recommendations.
Seusing is also seeking authorized funding for a third-shift detention specialist position, a role that is already authorized but not currently filled.
Adding four additional officers would cost about $200,000 a year.
The committee did not vote on the chief’s proposal on Wednesday, but seemed supportive of his recommendations. The committee is expected to address the matter during department budget presentations in the upcoming weeks.