Montpelier Police reevaluate responses after reduction in officers
MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Police departments throughout the state are dealing with staffing issues, but one department is now revamping its approach when it comes to responding to incidents, creating what police say is a troubling situation.
“We were hitting a crossroads point that we were looking at an internal implosion if we didn’t do something immediate,” Montpelier Police Chief Brian Peete said.
Peete says the department is allowed to have 17 sworn officers, but current staffing levels have plummeted to only 12 officers to respond to emergencies. The chief says low morale and burnout among officers have led to a drastic internal shift.
“The vibe was unmistakable, officers were being a little bit short with one another, officers were coming forward with concerns about not being able to make doctors appointments, appointments with their children, time with their family. It was time for us to look at how do we scale back operations because we getting to the point that we were hemorrhaging people,” Peete said.
So in response, the chief made the decision to switch the department’s focus. Incidents like property crimes or complaints of suspicious activity will have to wait. But if there’s a risk to public safety, officers will answer immediately.
“It’s a road I did not want to go down, very reluctantly, but it was something that we had to do to maintain the health of what’s left with this department. With no prospects coming in,” Peete said.
Some Montpelier residents say they’re concerned about the change.
“It makes me a little uncomfortable, just because I’m hoping the officers can really know what’s going on in different parts of the city and it takes some manpower to do that,” resident Phil Carr said.
Others like Sheir Richard, a resident in the city for more than 20 years, feel that based on Montpelier’s size, the city will be able to adjust.
“If you get a sense that you’re not being ignored, so if it does take a little bit longer, so long as there is a public sense that yes in time that will be dealt with, that’s not as bad,” said Richard.
Chief Peete says that based on the current climate within the profession there’s no timetable for when things will change.
“We were at a point, certain agencies, certain communities that may or may not have had money. Whether in Vermont or outside of Vermont have been using money to lure other folks away. So we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul and effectively there’s nothing left. So now, we’re in a bidding war,” said Peete.
He says they will continue to work with outside agencies, as well as state and local leaders to maintain public safety.
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