By Paul Conyers
Deputy Chief of Police, Kim Bernard, expressed several goals for the Londonderry Police Department in 2022. Bernard pledged that the Police Department would “continue being financially responsible to the budget” of Londonderry.
One issue raised by Bernard was the cost of maintenance. Costs include yearly maintenance on boilers, heating, and cooling systems. The duct system has not been cleaned since the current department moved into their building. It will require $30,000 to properly clean the ducts, well above the $18,700 budget the department current has for the expense.
Vehicle maintenance is another ongoing expense. Bernard found that the department is “budgeted for $4,000, we’ve been at $4,000 since 2012. We’re well over that every year.” Oil changes alone for police vehicles average at $5,000 every year.
Recruiting and retention is another chronic, ongoing issue not unique to Londonderry. If an applicant passes a strict background process, it takes one year for them to go through local training and the police academy in Concord.
Open Enrollment is one solution to the staffing problem. Throughout the year, the Services Bureau will advertise that Londonderry is taking open enrollment. The program solicits certified officers throughout NH, skipping the training process, though it still takes time to find new officers.
Bernard found that attrition is an ongoing problem. He said that “two months ago we lost an officer to retirement, we have another retiring at the end of this month, we have another retiring in July.” He noted that “there’s not many jobs out there where you have to say goodbye to your wife and kids or your husband” to work late nights and early morning. At the height of COVID, short-staffing meant some officers were getting called out up to three times per week. All three retirements are early retirement, and that police attrition is a nationwide problem, not one restricted to Londonderry.
Officer salary was cited as a secondary problem in combination with difficult working hours. Londonderry has historically had a comparatively high salary next to other departments in the state. However, it still does not compare to the pay of jobs in the private sector.
Acting Town Manager Mike Malaguti reiterated that the staffing shortage is “not just a Londonderry concern, it’s something that people are thinking about at the state level and local communities, probably every local community around the state.” Assistant Manager Lisa Drabik has experience studying the recruitment issue. She cited anecdotal evidence that the recruitment problem is particularly generational. Younger recruits are more concerned with quality-of-life issues, a concern the department can take into account.
A final note was the necessity of having a plan to increase recruitment. Creative solutions have often been as simple as putting up recruitment posters in local gyms.
Deeper strategic planning includes improving the reputation of the Londonderry Police Department to draw officers through the Open Enrollment Program and sending recruiters to professional staffing courses.