After council defunds police, five officers cut from budget

  • POLICE CHIEF JODY KASPER

  • Northampton Police Station GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/24/2020 6:45:30 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Police Chief Jody Kasper announced Wednesday that five full-time sworn police positions have been cut from the Police Department following a decision by the City Council to slash its budget for the next fiscal year by 10%.

Kasper said that one vacant position will go unfilled, and that Officer Bret Niford had resigned Tuesday and his position will remain vacant. Two people currently in the Police Academy, Jedadiah Henry and Brandon Donahue, were scheduled to graduate in July and have been laid off. Another, Ariangna Gonzalez, was working as a community service officer and had a seat reserved for the academy but has also been laid off. Employment for those three ends June 30.

Officer Josh Wallace also has been moved from his former full-time position as the school resource officer to a patrol unit, the chief said. There will be no school resource officer going forward unless the funding situation changes, Kasper said.

The City Council on Thursday voted to cut the city’s police budget by $669,957 amid protests against police brutality and racial violence. The money will be taken from three line items — $146,252 from other than ordinary maintenance, $48,279 from operations and maintenance and $475,426 from personnel services — which leaves the department’s budget at $6,030,801.

Kasper said that morale among her employees has suffered as calls to defund the police gain heavier traction across the country.

“In three weeks, the world has turned upside down. And all of a sudden, police are being painted in an entirely different light than we were four weeks ago when people were bringing us lunches and thanking us for our service in dealing with COVID,” Kasper said. “Four weeks later, here we are, and it’s a difficult situation to be in. And no one wants to see their peers cut, and then of course they wonder who’s next, what do we do now, and what happens if our staffing levels drop even more.”

Kasper said she could not answer why an officer resigned, saying it was an internal matter. She said the status of the community service officer position, which is essentially an internship for people before they attend the Police Academy, has been put into question by the budget cut. Officers were cut from the department by seniority, Kasper said.

Kasper said she was able to pull some money cut by the City Council out of other salary line items on the budget, such as educational incentives, overtime and holiday pay, to prevent the loss of any more staff. But the police chief said she hasn’t finalized the department’s fiscal budget for the upcoming year yet. Kasper said she hasn’t yet figured out how the budget cut will affect other areas of the department’s budget.

“For me, personnel is more pressing, and obviously this has caused quite a bit of concern in our building about who’s going to have jobs and how we’re going to be responding to calls,” she said.

The department has 65 full-time sworn positions, Kasper said, but the force hasn’t been fully staffed for about five years as some people leave. As of Wednesday afternoon, the department is providing its police services to the city, Kasper said, but at minimum staffing, which she said is five police officers. Shifts are filled with overtime when needed, she said, but some officers either get injured or need to take time off, which stretches the department thin. Training new officers also takes months, she said.

“The concern is that this climate will cause additional officers in our building to resign,” Kasper said. “Because you want to work in a community where you feel valued and where you feel that there is support. And if you don’t feel that way, it’s a long career.”

Kasper said she hopes she won’t have to cut any more positions from the department because of these budget cuts.

“This is what we anticipate based on the numbers that came out of council last week,” Kasper said.

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2019 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy