GREENFIELD — The Public Safety Commission has accepted Acting Police Chief William Gordon’s plan to move into fiscal year 2023 in light of a $425,000 cut to the police department’s budget, a plan that doesn’t includes no layoffs at this time to retain night shift staff.
That plan, the recommendation of which will now be sent to Mayor Roxann Wedegartner for consideration, includes scrapping the part-time officer program (a change that would also eliminate summer bike patrols), placing detectives on a hybrid schedule in dividing their time between patrol and detective work, and allowing some open or soon-to-be open leadership positions to remain vacant.
While Gordon hopes the department can receive grants to help retain the seven officers originally proposed to be cut, quarterly budget discussions will continue.
“We accept your recommendation with wording that will also include careful consideration in the future,” Susan White, a member of the Public Safety Commission, told Gordon last week. “Obviously the first quarter meeting will be very important to see where we are (salary and expenses) to forecast the next quarter.”
Cuts city councilors made to the police department’s proposed fiscal year 2023 budget at a May 19 meeting include $400,000 for salaries, bringing the salary line down to $3.1 million, and 25 $000 in expenses, bringing the expense line down to $275,000. The budget decisions came just two weeks after a jury verdict found the Greenfield Police Department and Chief of Police Robert Haigh Jr. discriminated against former officer Patrick Buchanan, the only black officer in the department at that time, when he was denied a promotion.
“It’s the safest outcome for citizens at this time,” Gordon said of the proposal he made to the commissioners. “It’s about trying to maintain public safety and the safety of our officers. If I were to lose additional agents over the summer and have to honor their vacations, we’d be talking about losing the entire night shift. I don’t think it’s safe for the town of Greenfield and I won’t recommend this type of cut.
Gordon said that in addition to the furlough of Officer Laura Gordon, another senior officer and a senior sergeant are considering furloughs or early retirements following City Council budget cuts. Additionally, one dispatcher resigned, one clinical and support options clinician resigned, and one lieutenant announced his retirement, effective January 2023.
“These are the unintended consequences of the discussions that took place here in Greenfield,” he said.
Gordon previously explained that the pay cut amounts to seven officers. However, between the reduction in part-time salaries and the loss of leadership positions through attrition, a handful of officers could potentially be spared. Gordon objected to the dismissal of officers, particularly during the summer when overtime would be required to fill in the gaps created by summer vacation.
“We are not willing to fire officers over the summer,” Gordon said. “We’re just going to have to try and find that extra $200,000. … If I fired someone right now, it would legitimately mean there would be no midnight coverage for Greenfield. Personally, I cannot live with these consequences.
He said the issue of layoffs should instead be reviewed quarterly.
Gordon told the commissioners the department had applied for the COPS Hiring Program grant, which could provide up to $1 million over the next three years.
“These are temporary subsidies,” he said. “This would prevent anyone from being fired from the Greenfield Police Department for the next three years. The community should accept these conditions and agree to abide by them.
And finally, he said the department hopes to continue working with the mayor and city council to “examine the possibility of having additional funding” to cover any additional costs it may have towards the end of the year. .
“I think it would be really foolish of us to fire people at this particular time,” Gordon told the commissioners. “I think it would be a better bet to look at the quarterly funding and talk about where we are in the fall, where we are in the winter, and keep a very close eye on the budget that we have here. .”
On the expense side, he said, instead of having four cruisers on the road for proactive patrol, the department has moved to a model where there are two cruisers staffed by two officers.
“Because our fuel line is going to be more than doubled, or should be more than doubled,” he said, “in order to mitigate that fuel expense…presumably if you drive half as much , you’ll save half that money.”
Journalist Mary Byrne can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne