By Stuart Foster, Contributing Author
WESTBOROUGH — Understaffing issues persist in Westborough as the police service is not on track to meet a recommended hiring criteria originally proposed in 2019, Deputy Chief Todd Minardi told the Select Board, the September 14.
Joined in his presentation by Chief Jeffery Lourie, Minardi referenced a staffing study conducted by Municipal Resources Inc. at the request of Westborough Police in 2018. When WPD presented its findings in January 2019, Minardi said, they recommended the hiring of five patrol positions. immediately and adding a total of 15 by 2024.
“We’re not close to that,” Minardi said. “We started with two. The next year we did two, and then we did one. We are not going to reach 15 by 2024, we understand that. It’s just the nature of where we are.
Shortage of staff limits ability to be ‘proactive’, says deputy chief
Minardi said that due to a staffing shortage, Westborough Police have a day shift that is one officer short. Some other teams are regularly at their minimum staffing threshold. There is usually a lack of station coverage, he said.
Minardi said that can result in officers being called in for overtime at the last minute.
More patrol posts, Minardi added, are needed to proactively target crime in
“We have eight hotels in this community,” Minardi said. “I hate to say it, but there is human
trafficking takes place in this town. There is drug trafficking in this town.
“We need to do more proactive policing, and we just can’t do that with the level of personnel we have,” Lourie said.
Lourie noted that hours earlier, on September 14, WPD made an arrest after an intoxicated person was involved in an accident.
Because the WPD had minimum staffing, Lourie said they had to order someone from the day shift to stay late and watch the arrested individual.
Rising Call Volume Adds Burden to Police Forces
Minardi said the understaffing comes at a time when incident reports are increasing. There is a projected 55.6% increase in such incidents from 2018 to 2021, as well as a projected 144% increase in arrests.
Minardi said the WPD had submitted a proposal for US bailout funding to help improve the workforce situation. The proposal would add three new patrol stations, as well as a hybrid police cruiser. The police had requested these positions during budget discussions for fiscal year 2021 as well as fiscal year 2022.
These were, however, reduced as these budgets took shape.
Such additions would increase Westborough’s patrol staff to 30 officers. This would mark an increase of eight officers on staff since Municipal Resources Inc. issued its request. However, that would still fall short of the recommendation, which suggested having 33 patrol boats by 2022.
“There is no one after the day shift”
Lourie reiterated the need for increased staffing, saying he laments the times when the
Westborough Police Station itself is ‘gloomy’.
“If you’re a citizen and you need help and you need someone in that position to help you, there’s no one after the day shift,” he said. “That’s just wrong.”
Through it all, however, Lourie and Minardi said they recognized how the pandemic, in
particular, has thrown a spanner in the long-range budget plans in Westborough’s municipal services.
“We understand that we are a department in the city,” Minardi said. “There are many other departments. There are many other needs. And we really want everyone to understand that we take that into consideration.
The effort to address these issues amid the pandemic and other challenges facing the city is ongoing, officials noted.
“There is a need and we are trying to be clear about how we could meet that need,” City Manager Kristi Williams said.