New Bedford mayor, police chief propose solution to staffing shortages
NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WLNE) — New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell and Police Chief Paul Oliveira proposed a solution Monday to the staffing shortages the Whaling City is facing. In a press conference held at New Bedford City Hall, the mayor and police chief announced a $5,000 signing bonus for all new hires in the department.
This new incentive comes as the city tries to curb more than a decade’s worth of staffing shortages which have continued to grow more severe in recent years, as more officers continue to retire or leave for neighboring police forces.
“We’re down an awful lot of more than 40 officers at this point,” Mitchell told ABC 6 News earlier this month.
In addition to the signing bonus, the city has also implemented a newly created recruitment officer position and also said they will boost recruitment efforts in high schools and colleges across Bristol County.
The New Bedford Police Union has criticized Mitchell and Oliveira over recruiting and retaining officers. In a phone call with ABC6 News following Monday’s announcement, the union president Evan Bielski said the incentives now being offered are a step in the right direction, “but just a small step,” he said.
Bielski added the city’s focus should be more focused on retaining current officers, adding they would not be in the hole they’re in if they did so.
According to the union’s website, since 2017, 132 officers have retired or resigned, with 11 of those coming this year. Of the 258 police officers budgeted for, the city is at just 210, after four more union members submitted their resignation Monday afternoon after being accepted into the Massachusetts State Police Academy.
The mayor said the department and union are currently in contract negotiations and said many of these complaints could be negotiation tactics by the union.