Temple-Greenville police chief describes staffing challenges

  • The Temple-Greenville Police Department, photographed on May 11, 2018. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/14/2020 10:18:07 AM
Modified: 2/14/2020 10:17:56 AM

The Temple-Greenville Police Department is feeling the effects of the extreme shortage of police officers statewide that has been exacerbated by changes to the state retirement rules.

Police Chief Jim McTague walked Temple residents through the specific difficulties he’s experiencing in finding and retaining local talent at the town’s budget hearing earlier this month. 

“It’s not good,” he said when asked to summarize what’s “going on in the police world” during the meeting.

“We’ve always had officers come and go somewhere else,” McTague said of his 30 years on the force. “But now, there’s nobody coming in the door to replace them.”

“I’ve never had an officer leave because he was unhappy with me, or the department, or the town,” he said. “It’s always been money.”

McTague spoke to the talent the department has lost over the years, highlighting several former officers who are now police chiefs. The town’s efforts to establish a more competitive pay scale in the 2020 budget has put Temple-Greenville back on a level plane with surrounding town’s rates, “but that’s something we’ll have to keep maintaining,” he said. 

When it’s fully staffed, the department has someone on duty from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m., he said, but now that they are down two part time officers and one full time officer, McTague does his best to spread out staff time. What suffers when they’re shorthanded, he said, is keeping up with issues like speeding on local roads. 

“Those are the kinds of things that chip away, because the cases we bring in are big cases,” he said.

Staffing shortages are affecting state police as well. The previous Saturday local officers had to wait for a trooper to respond from Concord before apprehending a Greenville man who was threatening them with a firearm, he said. 

“Counting on the state police – those days are fading away,” he said. “Now, state police just flat out say ‘we’re not coming.’”

McTague said that most officers in the department have applied through word of mouth, although he also reaches out to local colleges with criminal justice programs and the military to recruit, but, “when the economy’s good, nobody wants to get shot at.” 

Many recent applicants have not been able to pass background checks and physical agility standards, he said. “I pledged to keep a high standard.” 

“We used to be able to hire retired police officers,” McTague said.

However, that source of qualified officers is also drying up as the state continues to restrict the hours retired officers are allowed to work. Currently retired officers can work just 26 hours a week, McTague said, down from 36.

“I know probably 10 good retired officers who would love to come in and work 32 hours a week, but they can’t,” he said.

Many retirees are instead opting to work for Massachusetts police forces, he said. Resident John Kieley observed that the intent of the restrictions on retirees is to get young people in the system.

“But the tide has turned. Young people aren’t here. By excluding the retirees from the workforce, you’re hurting the towns,” he said.

The police academy class schedule is further stymying recruitment, McTague said. The state now offers just three opportunities for the mandatory training throughout the year, down from four.

“If we hire somebody today, if I’m lucky I’ll get him in the January academy,” McTague said.

It’s not financially justifiable to keep an officer around for more than a couple months before they complete their academy training, he said. “They can’t go out on their own,” without completing their training.




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

20 Grove St.
Peterborough, NH 03458
603-924-7172

 

© 2019 Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy