City Council: Police Improvements Take Time, Community Urged to Have Patience

Four months after Haverhill’s City Council approved a measure to add five additional police officers to the force, residents are urged to have patience as HPD improvements fall into place.

“When we added additional police officers, I was happy to support that, but that’s not where it ends. We need to support the police department in every [annual] budget. It can’t be done in one year and it wasn’t done in one year,” Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan said Monday, Oct. 23 at a pre-election candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Greater Haverhill and broadcast live by 97.9 WHAV FM. “Everybody’s heart and head was in the right place. You can’t do that in one fiscal year; you need to have a plan and stick to that plan.”

As WHAV previously reported, Sullivan and the majority of his council colleagues were looking for six additional police officers to join the force. Following a contentious round of budget votes in June, Mayor James J. Fiorentini agreed to add five. The mayor and councilors also allocated $238,000 at the time to fight gangs.

Since the vote, the city has seen an uptick in violence. This month alone, a local man was struck by gunfire at a Hilldale Avenue shopping plaza and a clerk at River Street’s Red Hen Market was left with stab wounds after fending off a knife-wielding robber.

Urging city residents to have patience, Councilors William J. Macek and Michael S. McGonagle reasoned that it takes approximately six months from hiring new officers to getting boots on the ground.

“The Mayor would love to put on 30 police officers to make everyone feel safe, but the reality is, we can’t afford it. Not with how our budget is today,” McGonagle said. “We have to be smarter with our resources, and wherever we can cut, we cut. (Police) Chief (Alan R.) DeNaro does a great job and they’re a very good use of their time and our money.”

With the 2018 fiscal year budget sorted, the council is already looking at ways to reallocate additional funds to public safety.

“We have to look come classification time: Is it worth $11 in your yearly tax rate to have more police officers? We want to keep the city affordable, but no one is going to be happy if you can’t walk downtown or your kids can’t play,” McGonagle said.

Council Vice President Melinda E. Barrett suggests revisiting department overtime limits.

“In the last year’s budget we spent over $2 million in police overtime. I don’t think that’s the best way to allocate police funds,” she said. “Police have been burdened with 16-hour shifts. That’s not a way to run a department. We want them to be in their best frame of mind and forcing them to work those hours is not a good idea.”

2 thoughts on “City Council: Police Improvements Take Time, Community Urged to Have Patience

  1. I have to laugh sadly. It has taken multiple murders and shootings to get the council to at least admit there is an issue. Too bad they didn’t listen to the warnings of those who know years ago. Then we would have to wait and ” be patient.” The council knew years ago the Pilice Dept was under staffed and needed more cops badly. But they have no guts to challenge the Mayor because they value their council positions more than they Robby doing the right thing. Typical politicians who got a nice raise and they get health insurance.

  2. “In the last year’s budget we spent over $2 million in police overtime…..” Barrett said.
    Of course they did. It’s an age old money grab, approved with a wink from the mayor, that has been going on for decades to financially line the pockets of cops. When the city has cops sleeping at their girlfriend’s house during their shift, and parking at isolated parking lots (like the upper Plugs Pond lot) all of the city for hours at a time, do councilors think citizens aren’t paying attention to these cops slacking off?

    The City of Boston reports that 65% of that city’s crime is committed by criminal invaders illegally in the country. Is it safe to say the percentage of Haverhill’s crime is equal to, if not higher? Before the city council randomly throws money at hiring additional personnel without any fact based knowledge that will reduce crime, why not invite Federal Law Enforcement officials to the city to remove the people in that 65% group “before” they commit crimes?

    Isn’t this logical? It shows how absolutely dangerous Andy Vargas’ actions were when he committed obstruction of justice by warning illegal invaders in the city that Federal drug enforcement officials were in the city doing their job.
    Andy supporting sanctuary city policies is essentially advocating AGAINST public safety. It’s impossible to say in one breath criminal invaders should be allowed to stay in the country, and in the next breath claim to be an advocate of increased public safety. They are two mutually exclusive policy positions…you can’t have it both ways!