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From where Resident Trooper Wayne Buck is sitting, the new year is looking good when it comes to Westbrook’s police services.
Because the state is increasingly shifting the cost of resident state troopers onto towns, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) decided to reduce the number of its resident state troopers from three to two for the 2018–’19 fiscal year. First Selectman Noel Bishop estimated that the change would save the town $200,000 per year.
The decrease in resident troopers would be offset, the members of the BOS reasoned, by hiring an additional part-time constable, bringing the number of constables to eight.
Buck was tasked with making that hire and Constable Judson Howes was brought on in June.
The town has had some difficulty over the years getting its constables to work weekend shifts. Per their contract with the town, Westbrook constables may choose which shifts they work, rather than having shifts assigned to them. Some work full-time jobs in addition to their Westbrook police jobs, so they value the flexibility provided by this stipulation.
The arrangement has its pluses and minuses for the town, however, which has to find middle ground between needing shifts to be filled and not wanting to end up with dissatisfied officers who leave for other jobs. The right number of officers is key—if there are too few, Buck points out, the less desirable shifts won’t be covered. Too many and there aren’t enough shifts to go around.
“I have to look at it from a town perspective and what’s good for the town,” Buck said. A few years ago, “we were down to like five [officers],” Buck said. “That made it very difficult [to fill shifts]. But now that we’ve hired over the last couple of years it’s taken up the slack.
“It’s a delicate balance at times,” he continued. “Right now our numbers are good. We’ve got somebody working every day. With the hiring of the eighth we’ve had very few issues about having an open Friday or Saturday night. There’s always somebody working.”
Buck points out that the town is never without police protection. He and another resident trooper, Greg Hunter, are on duty from roughly 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Both are on 5/3 schedules, with five days on duty followed by three days off. Their shifts overlap in the middle of the day, with Buck on duty until 4 p.m. and Hunter arriving at around 2:30 p.m.
In addition, with the Connecticut State Police Troop F barracks located in Westbrook, additional coverage is just seconds away, Buck said. One state trooper from Patrol 1, which covers Westbrook, is on duty at all times and she or he will respond if a local officer is not available.
“In the summertime, there are more people, so it’s a little busier,” he said. “We have [Troop F] to fall back on...They’re a major advantage, being that it’s right in town.”
There’s no cost to the town if a state trooper responds to a local emergency, Buck said, because patrolling the town is one of that trooper’s duties.
Buck, along with Emergency Management Services Director Donald Izzo, is aware that some residents are concerned that police coverage is spotty or inadequate.
“We don’t have a traditional police force in Westbrook,” Izzo explained. “We have a resident state trooper program. The town of Westbrook pays the state a certain amount of money to have a trooper assigned to the town and he handles everything from administration to crime scenes to accidents.
“The state police cover the town in the middle of the night,” Izzo continued. “Someone’s going to that call. It does not go unanswered. We do have police services around the clock for this town.”
“You can’t have a police officer on every corner,” Buck said. “No town has that. [But] there’s always somebody who will respond in the town of Westbrook and will respond quickly.”
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