Waterbury police push new initiative
WATERBURY — There’s no new sheriff in town, but the Waterbury Police Department is trying some things a little differently now.
The village is now querying businesses with emergency contact forms for its police department, renewing its police department outreach with the community, and evaluating the police chief’s performance.
Village trustees also hope communication issues with police are resolved, and the board will now rely on the municipal manager as the point-person for exchanging information.
The renewed approach is due to a re-examination of the relationship between the police chief and village trustees. Village officials and staff held private meetings with a professional group facilitator, Mary Fillmore, to air concerns. The meetings took place from November to early this month.
Police Chief Joby Feccia has already submitted a self-evaluation as part of the review, a first for Feccia with the village. The village will use the same company that Waterbury uses for its evaluations of its municipal manager. The process, said Trustee Lawrence “Lefty” Sayah, is not targeted at salary changes.
The new emergency contact forms for businesses ask, in part, for cellphone numbers, whether the business has security cameras, and contact information for alarm companies and cleaning services, which often accidentally set off alarms, according to Feccia.
The question about security cameras, which asks whether the devices are installed both within and outside a building, are also starting points for conversations about security, Feccia said. The devices at times can also help solve crimes not directly related to the business that has the security camera, he said.
The village hopes to reach around 108 businesses with the forms, which a police officer developed a few years ago. About 25 forms have been distributed so far, and the department has received 16 back, Feccia said.
As it steps up its outreach efforts, the department also hopes to meet regularly with various community organizations, like the school and senior center. Feccia met with the Rotary Club last week, and plans to do so quarterly.
A slightly revised mission statement also came out of the process, which reads: “It is the mission of the Waterbury Police Department to foster a safe environment which promotes a high quality of life through a cooperative partnership with our community.”
Some tensions still remain, though, as evidenced in a monthly police report earlier this month that suggested staffing levels were insufficient.
“The current staff is not adequate to accomplish our mission,” Feccia wrote in the Jan. 4 report. “We are in a position where we are almost completely reactive.”
Municipal Manager Bill Shepeluk has proposed filling a full-time officer’s position for part of the year, which would bring the department back up to two full-time officers and one full-time chief. The department also has five part-time officers.
Feccia, however, wrote in the monthly report that the department should have four full-time police officers and several part-time officers. The chief also recommended that a part-time administrative worker should work full-time.
If the cost of one full-time officer is added to the budget, the 2014 tax rate would increase by 4 to 4.5 cents. The position would pay around $45,000 plus benefits.
The current tax rate is 15 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
Shepeluk presented three draft budget possibilities at a village meeting last week. All of them assumed a full-time officer would be hired for part of the year.
Sayah, one of three village trustees, said the hiring could happen between July and October, but the village has not looked at any drafts that assume police staffing levels will stay the same.
The draft budget possibilities call for one-cent, two-cent or three-cent tax increases. Of the options presented so far, trustees are leaning toward the middle — a two-cent tax rate increase.
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