The size and make up of the Redding Police Department has recently been under scrutiny. Reddingite Wolf Boehme had put together a petition questioning the PD’s current status and presented it to the Board of Selectmen at this week’s meeting.
Boehme’s petition reads as follows:
- The budget pressures on Redding taxpayers are becoming more and more apparent. The value of the town’s grand list is projected to go down, the town taxpayers will need to shoulder an increased amount of the Region 9 budget, and many taxpayers will be affected by the new federal tax laws limiting deductibility of state and local taxes. Furthermore the town should expect that the state will continue to try to shift certain costs, historically born by the state, to the town.
- All this creates a scenario where the Town of Redding needs to re-evaluate what services it provides and how it provides them at a much more fundamental level than has been done historically.
- The level at which we staff our police force is a prime example.
- If our policy is that no officer should have to go on certain calls without backup, a policy A Better Redding CT agrees with, there are a variety of staffing models to address this, including:
- 2 town police officers on duty on all shifts Or
- 1 town police officer on duty supported by a Resident State Trooper or an officer from a neighboring town based on a mutual aid agreement or shared services model Or
- Converting to using the CT Resident State Trooper program to address Redding’s police needs and doing so at a level sufficient to ensure that a trooper has access to backup.
- None of these staffing models justifies the current staffing level at the Redding Police Department which includes: one chief, one captain, four patrol supervisors, nine patrol officers, one detective, a year round, full-time school resource officer, a part-time school safety officer who only works while school is in session, one animal control officer, one communications supervisor, four full-time dispatchers, two part-time dispatchers, one special officer, and nine auxiliary officers.
A recent hello, Redding commentary written by 25 year police department veteran and Redding native Sgt Marc Deluca corrected misinformation on Boehme’s petition and explained the rationale for the changes in staffing.
Redding has a population of close to 9200 residents. 175 people had signed the petition, although apparently only 115 had actually ties to Redding.
In anticipation of the presentation of the petition, interested partiesfilled the community room at the Redding Community Center.
First Selectman Julia Pemberton pointed out that she and Boehme had communicated through email and in person and that she had shared information that he had requested, including that auxiliary police officers are not paid by the town. She redirected him to resources to get the information he seeked.
Over 20 citizens spoke about the petition’s proposal. Mostly, the police department was praised. Reddingites told their stories of the police as first responders saving lives and making safe. EMTs spoke up for the need of adequate staffing in the police department. Dedicated Detective Christina Dias’ investigative work was highlighted. People spoke about times under the state trooper program where only one officer was on patrol and the challenges of needing backup. The current departments excellent training was also highlighted.
It was noted that children are not afraid of the police and enjoy interacting with them in the schools.
Notably, Georgetown fire marshal Joe Paola spoke about his three years as Redding’s State Trooper. He explained how far the troopers traveled to get to a call and that the troopers who cover Redding are shared with Roxbury and Southbury. He said reinstating the trooper program would be a mistake.
Redding as a safe town was a theme repeated. Real estate values staying high was also a point.
One resident said that although she was very appreciative of the Redding Police Department she understood that all budget items, including the police, needed to be held to scrutiny.
Another person said she was concerned that the town had a tank and was being militarized. She was quickly educated that the Redding police had been awarded a Hummer through a government grant that is used during storms. Redding does not own a tank.
Several residents echoed that having a strong police department was a form of insurance to keep Redding safe. For the cost of just a few hundred dollars per person, it was an investment worth having.
The idea of actually increasing the department so we could have an officer at the high school was also mentioned.
Mr. Boehme said he was not asking for the police department to work without backup although he was corrected when he stated that we would be able to choose our state trooper and they would be able to live in town.
As one of the last public comments, a resident asked who in the room had signed the petition. When only two people raised their hands, he said he would like to invite all of the people who had signed it to come to a meeting to learn about the history and on what the town needs going forward. He said that Mr. Paola, who had been our state trooper, knows how the program works and his comments have to have weight.
First Selectman Pemberton said that she was grateful that so many came out to share their comments and that all residents were welcome to share their opinions. She stated that the budget numbers would be fine-tuned and all budget lines, including the police, would be scrutinized. She said that we deserved the best service at the best price and that she recognized that all tax dollars are valuable.
Selectman Michael Thompson said it was very helpful to hear the various comments. He encouraged those who wanted to see an officer in the high school to attend a Region 9 Board of Ed meeting to encourage considering that option.
Selectman Peg O’Donnell echoed Mr. Thompson’s thoughts. She stated that it was wonderful that we can have a respectful conversation even when we don’t all agree. Ms. O’Donnell said that we have a lot of smart people who care about the town and their neighbors and that’s the kind of community she wants to live in.
After a short recess, the Board of Selectmen reconvened to go over budget information from the department heads. They had been tasked to find a 5% reduction in their budgets per department. Most were successful in at least a partial reduction.
Redding Social services offerings are expanding and the budget will increase. Under the guidance of certified Social Worker and mental health professional Angelica Fontanez, programs, community interest and revenue has increased. The part time administrative assistant will now be full time, the previous intern will be paid for 20 hours per week and a new unpaid intern will begin work. The Heritage center program coordinator will remain part time.
Further work is being done on the complete budget. Residents are invited to share their comments and attend meetings and workshops