Letter: Bristol should be more competitive for their police

Posted 2/2/23

To the editor:

This is the final week that the Bristol Police Department will be accepting applications for their latest recruitment drive, and first off, I would like to congratulate the …

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Letter: Bristol should be more competitive for their police


To the editor:

This is the final week that the Bristol Police Department will be accepting applications for their latest recruitment drive, and first off, I would like to congratulate the department for the yeoman's work they have put into this latest recruiting effort. From print media to social media to in-person efforts, the Bristol Police have tried every avenue to recruit quality candidates, and they are to be commended for their efforts. However, they have a number of factors working against them in those efforts, with many of them being factors that they have no control over, but there is one factor they have complete control over, and that is the overall compensation package that the town offers, an area where Bristol is woefully lacking.

Back many years ago when I was in the workforce, police and fire department jobs were highly coveted, and in order to be hired, not only did you have to score at the top of the list on the written and agility tests, but you also had to have a high-powered political "sponsor" to advocate for you as you progressed through the selection process, and if you did not have a politically connected individual advocating for you, your chances of being hired were pretty much nil. In those days, whatever city or town hired you was pretty much assured that new recruits would stay with their department for life, and turnover was very minimal.

Fast forward to today, and things have changed dramatically, with factors such as a robust economy, the lack of interest in police work, disrespect for police officers in general, and low pay and benefits compared with many careers in the private sector all contributing to fewer applicants for police department jobs. But the factor that has done the most damage to small town/low paying police departments such as Bristol is the relatively new policy of police departments all over the state now allowing police officers from other departments to laterally transfer to the city or town police department of their choice. Prior to this policy, if a police officer chose to resign from his or her department and accept a position with a department offering better pay and benefits, that officer had to basically start from scratch with their new department, which meant going through the entire testing and hiring process all over again, which in most cases was not practical or economically feasible.

With the new lateral transfer policy being adapted by so many police departments, police officers can now "shop around" and sell their services to the highest bidder, which puts police departments such as Bristol at a distinct disadvantage when competing against other municipalities who offer much better overall compensation packages. And keep in mind, these overall compensation packages include not just pay, but also factors such as opportunities for promotion, minimum years/age needed to retire, type of health coverage and amount of co-pay by the employee, and a plethora of other factors which make up the overall compensation package.

It's no secret that in recent times, the Bristol Police, as well as numerous other police departments nationwide have had a severe problem with recruitment and retention of officers, and until the town gets serious about increasing their overall compensation package, newly hired Bristol police officers will simply utilize the department as a stepping stone or temporary stop as they bide their time with the department while they seek out municipalities that offer a much better overall compensation package than the town of Bristol. At some point, the revolving door at the Bristol Police Department has to stop, and only our town's political leaders can stop it.

Mike Proto
245 Chestnut St.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.