Letter: Without fair pay, police officers will keep leaving

Posted 9/16/21

Recently, the Bristol Police Department responded to a horrific and violent incident in neighboring Warren, and not surprisingly, the Bristol officers who responded to this call performed with …

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Letter: Without fair pay, police officers will keep leaving

Posted

Recently, the Bristol Police Department responded to a horrific and violent incident in neighboring Warren, and not surprisingly, the Bristol officers who responded to this call performed with incredible professionalism and bravery under very stressful and life threatening circumstances.

Had it not been for the actions of these fine officers, I’m sure there would have been further loss of life and more injuries to officers and civilians. Also, not surprisingly, all forms of media were quickly flooded with words of thanks and praise for the police officers involved in the incident as well as police officers in general, and while I’m sure those words of thanks and praise were appreciated by the police officers, praise only goes so far, and does nothing to address the issue of police officer recruitment and retention, which is a huge problem for police departments nationwide, and especially in Bristol.

It may be the best kept secret in town that the Bristol Police Department has recently lost numerous police officers, some to other departments including the Rhode Island and Massachusetts State Police, as well as various other municipal police departments, while other officers have chosen to switch to careers in the private sector in occupations as diverse as attorneys and real estate agents, among others.

And while law enforcement careers are nowhere near as attractive as they were in years past, one of the biggest factors in the exodus of police officers from Bristol is the embarrassingly low salaries paid to our police officers. You do not need to be a mathematician to see that there are numerous police departments and other occupations that pay far more than the Bristol Police Department, and the reason for this rests squarely on the shoulders of past and present political leaders.

While our current town council has to shoulder some of the blame for balancing the town budget on the backs of our police officers, past politicians are just as much to blame for year after year of substandard wages paid to our police officers.

And while hundreds of politicians and taxpayers climbed all over each other to heap praise on our police officers after the violence in Warren, I would like to see how many of them would advocate for increased salaries for these dedicated public servants. For me, I would gladly welcome a few hundred dollar increase in my yearly tax bill if it meant increased compensation for our town police officers, and it’s long past time for our town leaders and residents to put their money where their mouths are and start paying our police officers what they deserve.

The wounds and loss of life from the Warren incident will soon be forgotten by many, but the emotional scars and trauma will remain with these officers for the rest of their lives, and will undoubtedly cause some of them to re-think their careers in law enforcement, and unless our town leaders come to their senses and pay these officers what they deserve, unfortunately the exodus of officers from the Bristol Police Department will only continue.

Mike Proto
Bristol

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