Ho Sing Loy says another officer is needed

Selectmen cut from budget recently, citing cost

January 08, 2014
BETHLEHEM — Police Chief Michael Ho Sing Loy discussed his proposed budget with the selectmen on Monday evening. The conversation follows a 3 to 2 board vote last week to eliminate a new full-time officer.

Ho Sing Loy provided several pages of data to board members. This illustrated call volume and other information related to Bethlehem's police department.

The new officer, the chief suggested, would cut the department's need for overtime expenditures. Additionally, the additional position would decrease the administrative burden that the department's patrol officers face.

The department could do more proactive work with a new officer, the chief said. "When I first took over," he informed the board, "we were basically a reactive police department."

Proactive police work involves greater interaction with the community to reduce crime. One area of Ho Sing Loy's interest is working more closely with the town's schools. A new officer would facilitate such relationships, Ho Sing Loy said. As of now, "We don't have the manpower to do that," he suggested.

Ho Sing Loy used some of his time with the board to note the differences between his force and the Littleton Police Department. Those selectmen who supported the elimination of the new officer position believed Bethlehem's much lower population meant the town could operate effectively with six full-time officers. Littleton's department has nine full-time officers.

Ho Sing Loy said Littleton's department has more supervisory officers and administrative staff. Additionally, Littleton's full-time prosecutor takes a big burden away from the town's patrol officers, the chief argued. In contrast, Ho Sing Loy said, the Bethlehem police officer performing the prosecutorial duties "is running ragged."

Ho Sing Loy said his officers must deal with a great deal of work related to prosecuting cases. "Preparing for trial takes a long time," he said.

Chairman Jerry Blanchard, who opposed eliminating the position last week, said Bethlehem's lack of a prosecutor puts pressure on patrol officers. The lack of a prosecutor position, Blanchard suggested, "takes a good officer off the street."

Sandy Laleme, who voted to cut funding for the new officer, informed Ho Sing Loy, "I hear everything you're saying. I appreciate everything you're saying." However, she said, from the taxpayer's perspective, she had concerns about the rising police budget.

Data discussed at the meeting established that the police department's budget increased $157,540, or 44 percent, from 2008 to 2013. Ho Sing Loy's discussion of proactive community policing suggests that he views the increase as a sound investment to decrease various types of crime, including assault.

Even with her concern about rising police costs, Laleme echoed Blanchard's view of the department. She informed Ho Sing Loy that officers do an excellent job for the town.

Ho Sing Loy promised some updated numbers based on inquiries from the board. The selectmen were in a work session, so public comment on the police budget was not taken.

The town's budget hearing occurs on Friday, January 17, at 6 p.m.

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