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May 13. 2013 8:28PM

Nashua police force bigger than it's ever been

NASHUA - For the first time in recent years, the city's police department is at full capacity, meaning nearly 180 patrolmen are now part of the police force.

"This is the first time in our history that we have had this many policemen," Chief John Seusing said on Monday. "Our game plan moving forward would be to slowly increase our authorized strength."

Although the budget only provides enough funding for 177 officers, last fall the Board of Aldermen added $100,000 to the police department's contingency account, allowing the chief to hire additional officers if he feels comfortable with the available funds.

Last month, five new patrolmen were sworn into their positions. The hiring of the new officers filled three vacancies that resulted from recent retirements. The two additional officers increased the department's police force from 177 to 179 sworn officers.

"We do not have any vacancies currently. We have been at full strength since April 1," said Seusing. "We have never been at full strength for this amount of time. That is very good."

Because of the additional manpower, funds must be transferred to accommodate the personnel changes, according to city officials.

Alderman-at-Large Lori Wilshire has filed a proposed resolution seeking to transfer contingency funds to cover the costs of the larger force - two more officers than originally anticipated in the current budget.

Last summer, Seusing told city officials that the department needs additional police officers on the force. Since April of 2012, 21 new officers have joined the force, although Seusing said many of those hires filled vacant positions from resignations or retirements and did not actually add to the overall number of patrolmen.

With crime on the rise since the beginning of 2012 and an average annual turnover of 10 officers, Seusing previously told aldermen that the ideal number of authorized officers would be 185 rather than 177.

"That number is actually a little bit on the low end," he said at the time. Seusing said that because several officers are in the police academy or in training at any given time, there is rarely - if ever - 177 officers patrolling the streets.

On Monday, Seusing said five new officers are about to attend the police academy, three officers just graduated from the police academy last month and about three are in training.

If the authorized number of officers was increased, it may enable 177 officers to actually be on patrol, the chief said last summer during budget deliberations. Since that time, Seusing said a workload assessment has been under way to determine the ideal number of officers needed for the Nashua Police Department, although those numbers have not yet been finalized.

"But we are in a much better position than we were a year ago," the chief said.

The department recently conducted police testing and is currently interviewing potential candidates to be included on the wait list for future patrolmen in the city, according to Seusing, who said two candidates are already in that pool of individuals.

The five newest members of the Nashua Police Department include officers Nicholas Jowders, Julia Banks, Jeffrey Dillon, Travis Kumph and Brian Wornham.

The aldermanic Budget Review Committee will review Wilshire's proposed resolution to transfer about $33,000 from the Nashua Police Department's contingency account to fund the payroll and non-payroll costs associated with the hiring of two police officers above the 177 positions budgeted.

The department continues to recruit new candidates interested in law enforcement careers, conducting police testing three times a year.

khoughton@newstote.com


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