Councilors Express Support for Adding Six More Police Officers to Haverhill Budget

Haverhill Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro, right, makes a point during 2018 budget talks. Deputy Chief Anthony Haugh, left, and Mayor James J. Fiorentini, back, listen. (WHAV News file photograph.)

During a budget review Monday night, Haverhill Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro, right, answered questions posed by city councilors. With him were Deputy Chief Anthony Haugh and Mayor James J. Fiorentini. (WHAV News photograph.)

In light of recent crime, Haverhill city councilors demonstrated their determination to add six more officers to next year’s $12.2 million police budget.

Members Monday night approved a mostly symbolic amendment by Councilor Melinda E. Barrett to the budget that would add five more patrolman and one sergeant. Councilors and Mayor James J. Fiorentini have agreed to collectively handle all proposed changes to the administration’s budget during a final review Wednesday, June 20.

In arguing for more police officers, Barrett reasoned the diversion of four officers to a reconstituted anti-gang unit justifies the increase. She said Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro outlined a goal last year to add six more officers a year for five years to help build up the department’s ranks. “That would be the goal,” Barrett said. The chief, however, said the idea was just one of several possibilities.

“We gave multiple choices, and if the city at some point desires to put a plan in place, that would be something that we either use or we can craft and create one,” the chief said.

Because of retirements, resignations and transfers to other departments, DeNaro said, the number of police officers actually on the street tends to be lower than the budgeted amount. There are 101 police now, but 106 are authorized in the current spending plan, he explained. He expects at least two more officers will be leaving by the end of the month and total vacancies by July could reach eight.

Council Vice President Thomas J. Sullivan said he believes adding four more officers would be a “more manageable number.”

Another possibility for adding four more patrolmen, Fiorentini said, is to switch to all civilian dispatchers. “That is on the table now in negotiations,” he added. “Like I said, I am committed to putting more officers on the street," Fiorentini said. “The first priority has to be in filling the vacancies and we have other things in the budget to look at—the schools, as all of you know, got a $5 million increase. To be frank about it, their going to put a lot of pressure on you to give then $500,000 over and above that.”

Council President John A. Michitson, who voted against the mayor’s budget three times last year over low police staffing, did not support the amendment. He explained, “Because I don’t think we’re going to even come close to that. I’m trying to be reasonable. So, I think it is going to be somewhere in between.”

Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua made the motion to approve the police budget.