Council Considers How an Expanded Police Dept. Would Work

(File photograph.)

Haverhill Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro addresses city councilors Wednesday night, while Capt. Stephen Doherty looks on. (WHAV News photograph.)

At the City Council’s request, the Haverhill Police Department Wednesday night presented a number of ideas for increasing police presence in Haverhill.

Three scenarios were prepared, showing how Haverhill would benefit from 36 additional officers, 25 more or at least a dozen new hires. Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro explained the rationale behind his proposals.

“What we’re here to do is just take a look at, an intelligent look from our perspective as law enforcement professionals, what we think we need to be able to do some of the things we would like to do and this community demands that we do.”

Capt. Stephen Doherty told councilors the city currently has 1.7 police officers per 1,000 residents, but northeast communities typically have an average of 2.3 officers, according to FBI data. Using these figures, Doherty said, the city should have 145 officers total instead of the current 99.

If the city had 135 officers, that would allow six additional officers per shift, four more sergeants and a full-time traffic and safety division, Doherty said. There is only one officer handling traffic and safety now. A primary benefit, he explained, is large sectors of the city would receive better coverage.

“Some of the sectors in Haverhill are as large as 11 square miles, covered by one single officer. Several of our sectors in the City of Haverhill are bigger thahn most of the cities that we showed,” Doherty said.

He explained, for example, Waltham, with only 13.6 square miles of land, has 142 police officers. Haverhill, on the other hand, has 35.6 squares miles and only 99 officers.

A second option, he said, would be to hire 25 additional police. That would allow four more officers per shift, four more sergeants and a part-time traffic and safety division. Finally, the option of hiring 12 additional officers would mean two more patrolmen per shift, three sergeants and still no safety and traffic division.

Doherty did note, however, that even with current staffing, officers last year made an effort to introduce themselves to the public more often.

“We mandated in 2016 that officers have two documented interactions, per shift, per officer, out there proactively talking to citizens. That could be motor vehicle stops. That would be going into stores—24-hour stores—talking to clerks making sure they’re ok.”

In response to a question from council Vice President Melinda E. Barrett, DeNaro said hiring more officers would also reduce the department’s $2 million-a-year overtime costs. Mayor James J. Fiorentini disputed overtime costs would drop.

As it stands now, though, the mayor’s budget for next year includes two additional police officers, bringing the department back up to the size it was 15 years ago. Even if councilors eventually adopt any one of the staffing options, it would likely be a year before any new officers would be on the street. That’s because of the time it takes to obtain a list of candidates from the Civil Service Commission, conduct background checks and send recruits to the Police Academy.

DeNaro reminded councilors, “Our position is that, imagine what we could do if we had have of what we’re asking for.”

Fiorentini said the only way the city could hire 35 more officers, for example, would be to have a Proposition 2 ½ override approved by voters. Councilor Michael S. McGonagle countered the $800,000 cost of a dozen new officers could fit in the budget without exceeding caps of the tax-limiting law. Councilor Colin F. LePage, who has become the council’s informal numbers guru, said the additional cost to taxpayers would be $36 per year, on average.

The mayor challenged councilors to campaign on a platform of raising taxes and see what happens.

10 thoughts on “Council Considers How an Expanded Police Dept. Would Work

  1. It is a fact that the Haverhill Police are terribly shorthanded proved by the FBI data and common sense . All one has to do is drive around Haverhill and see all the new streets and new homes being built on the outskirts of the city ,and the condos and apts in the inner city. Obviously this is the reason the population has risen so high ,but with this amount of growth it also brings crime in the city to a new level. With the current amount of police officers the response time is greater, the ability to take every call at once is limited ,and the protection and safety of the public is jeopardized . How can anyone believe that with approximately the same amount of police officers as 20 yrs ago Haverhill residents can feel safe. The only answer that I can see is the proposal Capt. Doherty initially proposed hiring 36 new police officers ,this is the shot in the arm Haverhill needs to let the Haverhill Police Dept. be as effective as possible not just for now but for the future.

    • Rick, the concept that new development at the outskirts of the city brings increased crime is an outright lie.

      The City of Haverhill has invested in software that records and tracks all crime throughout the city. Chief DeNaro has spoken about it often as a essential predictive tool of where department resources are allocated to not only respond to crime, but to stop it before it happens. The software provides accurate, objective, current and historical data.

      Common sense? Did you notice no documentation or data from this software was used in this presentation? Why do you think that is? I think it’s because the FACTS don’t correlate to Doherty’s totally subjective proposal. Doherty is winging it and his lack of use of his own department’s historical data proves it. Data from this software would have provided irrefutable proof to support their proposal and hard for city councilors not to support. The fact that they provided no data from this software is a glaring confirmation of their subjective arguments.

      • Jack, If you look at what I wrote I said the increase of development on the outskirts and inner city brings slower response time as well as increased crime mostly slower response time to the outskirts and more inner city crime . For example crimes like domestic abuse and b&e increase as the city increases ,I stand by my initial comments, and stand in agreement with Capt Doherty . I for one think the Haverhill Police are doing a fantastic job in spite of the obstacles put in their way.

        • Rick, if increased development has resulted in more crime, why does the mayor keep preaching that crime is down in the city?

          For once I’d like to see quantitative business acumen applied to decisions made in this city, instead of subjective opinion based self interests. With the use of the software the police department has at its disposal specific fact based data is available to explain to city officials, as well as the public, all the that needs to be known about the who, what, where, and when’s about crime in the city. Again, the fact that the chief and Doherty, the two people in the department most responsible for the use of that software tool chose to completely ignore the use of that factual data in their presentation should be a huge red flag for city councilors approving anything based on their very subjective proposal.

  2. I couldn’t agree more Jack. An additional item I notice in these “proposals” is the constant need of Sergeants (aka high paid public servants). I could see the need for additional BEAT cops downtown and in other areas.

    Also, it is proof positive that government/bureaucracy is a an absolute joke when it comes to providing candidates to be police officers. This article states it would take a YEAR to get police on the street – REALLY? It takes a YEAR to obtain a list of people, & do a background check? You mean to tell me there are NO candidates ready to go? – Sorry I don’t buy it. Maybe there’s not enough FRIENDS AND FAMILY members ready (through nepotism) to become police officers (Hey – call cousin Joe, does he want to be a cop?).

    Lastly, lets not refer to Colin LePage as a “numbers guru” – he’s far from it. Throwing out this $36 a year cost is the old political BS that a few more cops will cost the tax payers the ‘cost of a cup a coffee’ a day. I’ll tell you what – I’m currently buying through my tax dollars too many “cups of coffee” – and getting nothing in return. It’s time for these Bozos to thy the decaf.

    • The Police Academy is just under six months long, then usually a months-long field training/assessment so it’s about right.

      Of course you’re spot on with the nepotism angle which plagues this city and this state. They do not care, no matter how bad it looks, even if candidates are terrible. In recent years we have even seen Beacon Hill get directly involved to make sure their guy/gal jumps ahead of everyone else, even if they did poorly (but passed) the joke of a Civil Service Exam.

      In the end, it’s not the salaries, it’s the unfunded and financialized pensions of the employees. Haverhill in particular because much like the maligned MBTA Fund, they are both reflective of a Ponzi scheme – 1,074 taking and 887 contributing (2015 AR). Thanks in part to trillions of liquidity going to the very top (markets) over the past eight (8) years, along with Fed policy and terrible assumptions, it gives the appearance that all is well and that these pensions are fine. While Massachusetts isn’t the worst, we’re up there, and we have already seen municipalities across the country already facing the music on this issue. Pensioners bought into the lie, and along with taxpayers, get left holding a bag of rocks.

    • The amount of Sergeants is dictated by the amount of patrolmen. On some police forces, they have 1 Sgt. per 3-4 patrolmen. Other depts. are a bit higher requiring 1 Sgt. per 5-6 patrolmen. All depends on the contract. Your thoughts on candidates is skewed. Yes, it does take that long to get a TRAINED officer on the street for several reasons. Good candidates are not easy to find any longer as the pay in Haverhill is very low. Also, people have more incidents in their background nowadays than previously, so the pool is smaller. Then, the academies where they train the officers is not held every month and one must wait until there is an opening to attend. So I guess the coppers are supposed to do their much different and quite more difficult job nowadays with the same amount of cops on the streets ? That does not make sense.

  3. Labor unions ALWAYS want increased manpower to strengthen their negotiation capabilities and promote their false narrative that more employees provides increased productivity and positive results.

    The idea of making management decisions based upon what is done in other communities is childish and unprofessional. Haverhill’s large undeveloped, unpopulated geography, which translates to reduced demand for services, is actually a reason ‘not’ to hire more officers. City councilors should be more concerned with performance based data which shows an objective, definitive relationship between the number of employees, how they are being managed, and end results.

    Remember, this is the Haverhill Police Department we’re talking about. This is the department that employed John Rogers, a night shift Sargent, who was “literally” sleeping at his girlfriend’s house every night and department management knew nothing about it. This is the department where an officer on the night shift, with nothing else to do, refused a dispatcher’s request to respond to a 911 call in the middle of the night of a missing person which resulted in that person dying. This is the department where detectives manipulated documentation at a drunk driving scene of a retired state trooper and then lied about it. I could go on and on.

    This isn’t a department budgetary manpower/labor issue. The is a public policy issue made by the mayor! Haverhill is a VERY dangerous place…there is no question about that. It’s dangerous because of the welcome mat the mayor has laid out for criminal trespassers from other countries to make Haverhill home. The mayor, via public policy decisions he has made, has turned Haverhill into a sanctuary city for criminal invaders. It’s the mayor’s policy decision which is creating the demand for more manpower. It is the mayor’s public policy decision that puts an undo burden on HPD labor costs. Change the policy and the labor demands change drastically. Not surprisingly, not one city councilor dared bring this issue up.

    It doesn’t matter how many police officers HPD has. As long as the city has a mayor which promotes sanctuary city policies, not to mention advancing growth of low income housing in the city, crime will continue in the city.