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Sunderland Police request additional officer, cruiser

A Sunderland Police vehicle is parked behind the safety complex. (Recorder/Paul Franz)

A Sunderland Police vehicle is parked behind the safety complex. (Recorder/Paul Franz)

SUNDERLAND — Police Chief Jeffrey Gilbert is requesting an increase in his department’s budget that would provide for an additional police officer and a new police cruiser.

On Tuesday, Gilbert met with the Board of Selectmen to discuss his budget requests. The budget for Fiscal Year 2015 that begins July 1 is not finalized. The Board of Selectmen is holding preliminary budget meetings on different department requests.

Currently, there are five full-time police officers, including the chief, and three to four part-time officers. Gilbert said he needs more officers to help ensure public and officer safety.

“The community and officer safety is of the upmost importance,” Gilbert said. “It has always been my highest priority to keep the residents of Sunderland as safe and protected as best we can.”

Some of the major incidents Sunderland Police face are domestic abuse, drug and suicide related calls and motor vehicle crashes that can often jeopardize officer safety, Gilbert said.

Ideally, Gilbert said he would like to have two officers on patrol 24-hours, seven days a week.

Gilbert likened his department to his neighbors across the Connecticut River.

With a town population of about 4,750 townspeople, the Deerfield Police Department has seven police officers and a working police chief and is able to have two cruisers patrolling the town 24 hours, seven days a week.

Sunderland has a population of 3,777 residents, but Gilbert said that number increases during the school year as University of Massachusetts students move to town.

Gilbert also argued that the police officers are the first responders for EMS calls.

The police budget for Fiscal Year 2014 was $354,222. Gilbert did not have the projected budget figure for the next year because the police union is currently in negotiations with the town, which could impact wages and salary increases.

For $35,000 to $40,000, the town could get a 2014 sedan to add to its line of cruisers. The Police Department has three sedans and one four-wheel-drive vehicle. Gilbert said the cruiser he drives is 11 years old.

“A new cruiser is very much needed,” said Gilbert. “We’re getting to the point where it is expensive to maintain.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at: kmckiernan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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