Recently, the New Bedford Police Union has made a concerted effort to bring attention to issues which impact both the public and the police through our social media account as well as our website. We were also able to share the message during an interview with Chris McCarthy and Marcus Ferro on their SouthCoast Tonight radio show on WBSM.
Frank Mulligan, a journalist for The Standard Times, also touched on our efforts to share information in an article which was published today. That article featured important information pertaining to the well-documented decreased staffing levels, an exodus of officers (both through resignations and retirement), as well as confusion amongst police officers working in the department due to a lack of any documented plan from our appointed leaders.
The New Bedford City Council has also acknowledged the importance of communication. That acknowledgment was documented by Adam Bass in an article he wrote for WBSM. In the article, New Bedford City Councilor Brian K. Gomes explained that one of his intentions was to share information with the public and to have the public involved in local government. Councilor Gomes was quoted in the article as saying,
“When I spoke about the media part of it, we are lacking in getting information out to people,”
We couldn’t agree more.
Sharing information, though, should not be limited to only positive stories. Limiting information does not allow those receiving that information to have a clear picture of the entire landscape. Tucking away information by public officials which may be interpreted as negative does not benefit anyone. Not the public, and not the police. In fact, it is the antithesis of public service. More importantly, it runs counter to the calls from the public for transparency.
In his article, Mr. Mulligan shared a statement from our union president regarding the current number of officers in the New Bedford Police Department which was contrasted by the budgeted amount of police officers. The numbers alone should be cause for concern. And they have been. The circumstances that the New Bedford Police Department finds itself in did not happen overnight.
The issue of a wilting police force was present prior to the current chief being chosen by Mayor Mitchell to lead the department. Both Chief Oliveira and Mayor Mitchell have acknowledged the problems with hiring and retention and made it a point to highlight the fact that it is a nationwide trend.
There are certainly benefits to a macro view in order to identify issues. To rely solely on a macro view when dealing with a unique department in a unique city however, does not inspire confidence. It is more likely to cause uncertainty, much like the uncertainty which the men and women of the department are experiencing on a daily basis.
That uncertainty is manifested by officers questioning if there has been any plan put in place to address these issues. The fact remains that with respect to staffing levels, no documented plan has been put in place. Take a moment to think about that. No documented plan to address staffing from a hiring/retention perspective, and no documented plan in place to address the staffing issues which the New Bedford Police Department is facing on an almost daily basis.
Officers and supervisors do not know when open assignments will be filled via a forced shift and when those assignments will be left vacant. There is no way to plan around these questions because the answer is only known after a phone call is made to the department leadership. Even in that situation, the reasons for the decision are not made clear during the phone call.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” seems to be a problematic approach from department leadership when it is abundantly clear that the proverbial bridge will need to be crossed over, and over, and over again.
The staffing issues and increased responsibilities are not limited to the Uniform Patrol Division. These issues stretch across the entire department. Specialized units are operating with less personnel to include supervisors. The case loads of detectives grow higher and at a faster rate. The supervisors who remain in those units are also tasked with overseeing more officers with and are responsible for a larger workload. Day after day officers are asked to do more with less.
There is no way to dance around it. The situation is dire. Meaningful change must be made and time is of the essence. These are the situations when leadership is needed most. Members of both the public and the police deserve it. The City of New Bedford cannot afford to allow the outflow of qualified officers to neighboring agencies to continue without at least attempting to positively address it.
Hopefully police leadership avoiding accountability, responsibility, and clear communications are not nationwide trends as well.
Read the article by Frank Mulligan here:
Check out the story from Adam Bass here:
Review the article that outlined what the Bristol County Sheriff is doing to address hiring and retention here: