New London

Residents rally for more police officers in New London

NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH) -- In 2011, there were 99 sworn officers in New London. Now, there are 68 and only about 40 of them patrol the streets.

At a public hearing held at City Hall on Monday night, dozens of people came out to plead with officials to find money to hire more officers.

"The citizens have articulated that they're concerned about their safety and a lack of police coverage in the city," said Jay Wheeler, Chairman of the New London Neighborhood Alliance.

Wheeler, along with several other people who spoke out, says one of the biggest issues with a small force is response times that are taking too long.

"People are having to wait an hour, sometimes three hours, for an officer to come cause they just are being reactive and going from call to call. So, it's not safe for the officers and it's not safe for the citizens," said Wheeler.

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"We don't have the magnitude of officers that we used to have where we can address everything at once. Some calls take three, four, five cops and the other calls have to wait. The problem is if they're both in serious nature then you run out of cops," said Tom Lynch, President of the Police Union.

Mayor Michael Passero listened as residents voiced their concerns. In a written statement he said, "Mayor Passero firmly believes that due to the diligent efforts and outstanding professionalism of the men and women of the New London Police Department that this community is, at this time, safe and well policed."

An ordinance passed in 2014 states the city needs to have 80 sworn officers. Passero and council members say the money just isn't there to hire an additional 12 officers. Passero said they are working toward the goal of full staffing as resources become available.

"We're not saying that the city is unsafe. We're saying it's not as safe as it could be with additional officers," said Lynch.

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Both the police union and residents are asking the city to take money that the city makes when police are hired for out of department work like traffic control for utility work or staffing at certain events and put that money directly into the police department. Right now those dollars are placed in the city's general fund.

Residents are also asking the city to fund K-9 teams.

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