Merrimac is a very close knit community. We have been fortunate to protect and serve a community comprised of dedicated families, residents and business. We, the members of the police department pride ourselves on our active involvement with our residents whether it be our schools, our family events, our senior center or the numerous birthday parades that have helped people smile though these very difficult times. Our staff is an amazing group of consummate professionals that have dedicated their lives to working for you. I am proud to be their leader.
Some of the officers that you see patrolling your streets are your neighbors, your children’s coaches and your friends. Our officers wear many hats while on duty; they are lifesavers, counselors, mediators, mentors and friends.
Although we are sandwiched between cities with traditionally higher crime rates, Merrimac has remained a safe town. My job, as your Chief of Police, is not only to keep you safe but to protect the officers who have committed to serving you. Our police department is small, so small that 30% of the time, our available staff only allows for one officer to be working on the road. One person, responsible for protecting a town of 7,000 lives dispersed over 9 square miles, for an average of 10 days each month.
It is not safe for our officers to respond to certain calls without backup, and it isn’t safe for our community members who may dial 911 only to be told that the only officer on duty is on another call and will get there as soon as they can – or that our residents may have to wait for mutual aid to arrive from another city or town.
Of our similarly-sized neighboring towns, including Groveland, West Newbury, Newbury and Georgetown, we have the fewest number of officers on staff. To be honest, we are the smallest in the entire area, as most of these agencies staff two officers on duty at any given time.
For years, we have relied heavily on our reserve officers to fill shifts. They are a great resource, but often their availability is unpredictable. These are part-time, per-diem staff who are working full-time elsewhere, nearing retirement or who are just starting their careers and actively looking for full-time police employment—elsewhere, if there are no opportunities in Merrimac. The latter is particularly difficult for me as chief, because we may spend considerable time, energy and money training and developing a young part-time officer, only to see them leave because full-time positions open up in other departments.
This year at town meeting, I am asking the people of Merrimac to fund two additional full-time police officers. This will help ensure that there are always two members of the department on duty at any given time. The additional officers would cost the owner of the average home in Merrimac $88 per year in added property taxes. People are our most important resource as we work together in this community to keep all citizens of Merrimac safe.
I know what we are asking of you, during these uncertain and difficult times. Any request for funding from taxpayers must be made with the utmost care and caution. This is especially true in light of our recent police station building project. In order to do that and to continue to modernize and evolve as an agency, we need to ensure consistent staffing levels. I promise that I would not be making this request if I did not believe it is important.
We seek to be the most responsive and modern police department possible. Amid the national conversation surrounding police professionalism and standards, I would also like to take this opportunity today to announce that the Merrimac Police Department will begin the challenging process of seeking State Certification and then State Accreditation. This difficult and self-reflecting process will help ensure that our policies, procedures and trainings are in line with state and national best practices for modern policing. We have already assigned an officer to the role of accreditation manager.
Achieving adequate staffing in the department will not only make our community safer, but it will help make sure that we are able to grow and evolve to meet the needs of all our community members and guests.
Our department is fortunate to operate in a town that has shown such great support for its public safety agencies. We are deeply thankful to you, and we report to work each day knowing that we can only be effective in our role as police officers if you believe in us.
Thank you for your time, partnership, consideration and support every day.