Northampton police pull in $350,000 from NETA details

  • Don Fournier, left, who is a special for Northampton Police, talks to Michael McLaughlin, a patrolman for the department, during a shift change at New England Treatment Access, Tuesday, April 9, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Brent Dzialo, a patrolman for Northampton Police, directs traffic into the New England Treatment Access parking lot, Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Michael McLaughlin, a patrolman for Northampton Police, directs traffic out of the New England Treatment Access parking lot, Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 4/10/2019 11:57:50 PM

NORTHAMPTON — City officers have earned more than $350,000 from police detail work at the expense of New England Treatment Access, according to figures provided by the department Wednesday morning.

All told officers, who are paid at a rate of $51 an hour for detail work at NETA, have earned $358,811 since the dispensary began selling recreational marijuana on Nov. 20, with more than a dozen officers making more than $10,000.

“Essentially, we’re trying to mitigate traffic issues and pedestrian issues around that area,” said Sgt. Corey Robinson.

Amanda Rositano, director of operational compliance for NETA, said that the company has enjoyed a positive and collaborative relationship with the department.

“We have worked with them from day one,” she said.

Robinson, who worked with NETA to develop the the traffic flow plan for the facility, said he worked a lot of hours when NETA was very busy in the period after it began selling recreational marijuana on Nov. 20, even working on Christmas Day.

Police Chief Jody Kasper said the details, which are paid for entirely by NETA, serve the city by improving traffic and pedestrian safety around the facility, while allowing officers to make some extra money in a period of the year where there isn’t much detail work available.

Robinson did note, however, that doing detail work does keep officers away from their families.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” he said.

Officers do detail work on top of their normal shifts for the city.

Both Robinson and Kasper cited the benefits of having extra officers on duty as a result of the details.

“You’re getting officers on the street that NETA’s paying for,” said Robinson.

And Kasper noted that it’s not uncommon for officers working details to identify suspects in crimes.

“They serve that additional purpose being out there,” she said.

Robinson said that officers working the details at NETA have handled a number of calls, “just because we happen to be in that area.”

He also noted that the suspect in the March 31 Hannoush Jeweler’s larceny was apprehended after an officer working a detail at NETA stopped him.

Rositano also highlighted the positive effect that the police presence has had on the area in helping to deal with crimes unrelated to NETA and said that a police presence is, “in and of itself a deterrent for crime.”

She said there haven’t been any crimes related to NETA or the dispensary.

Robinson said that at one time officers were at the facility 24 hours a day, although this is no longer the case.

A major purpose of the details, he said, is to make sure that NETA’s parking lot always has space for its medical patients.

Of the detail needs at NETA, Kasper said the minimum number of officers on duty at NETA for every hour it is open was reduced recently from three to two.

Rositano said that a lot of details were hired early on out of “an abundance of caution,” and that reductions since those opening days have been due to a reduction in the traffic volume.

Kasper said she did not know what effect NETA would have on the city’s details during construction season, but that the city would be using officers from other communities as well, as it has prior to NETA.

“It’s common practice,” she said.

When asked if there will be a time when NETA does not hire details, Rositano said the company is continuing to  consult with the police and that, “We’re going to make that decision accordingly in due time.”

In addition to the money paid to officers, the police have also assessed a $33,369 administrative fee on the details at NETA, as well as a $2,040 cruiser fee, both of which go to the city’s general fund.

The detail money is separate from the $449,825 in excise tax generated from NETA that was delivered to the city last week from the state Department of Revenue, as well as the $287,506 in community impact fee money delivered directly to Northampton from NETA last week.

The excise tax money was collected on behalf of the city in November, December and January from the gross sales of recreational marijuana at NETA’s Northampton location during that period, while the community impact fee money was collected for November and December from the gross sales.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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