Following City Council vote, Greenfield’s acting police chief charts out $425K in cuts

  • The Greenfield Police Station on High Street. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 5/26/2022 7:34:09 PM
Modified: 5/26/2022 7:32:11 PM

GREENFIELD — The city’s acting police chief addressed the Public Safety Commission on Wednesday to lament the $425,000 budget cut his department is facing after a City Council vote last week.

William Gordon became visibly frustrated talking about the effects this decision will have on his force and the community. He listed the names of the seven officers slated to lose their jobs, wanting the public to know they are human beings with bills to pay and not simply lines on a budget sheet.

The acting chief said officers Brendan Smith, Adam Belville, Marcus Johansson, Jedadiah Henry, Matthew Llewelyn, Nicholas Limoges and Brandon Lagoy are expected to be let go.

“Somebody needs to say their names. It’s important to know. These are people. They have lives,” he told the Public Safety Commission, adding that another officer is set to fill the role of a senior officer going on leave. “Every single one of these officers left a full-time job and came to Greenfield, because they thought Greenfield supported their Police Department.”

Gordon said his department, which currently has 34 officers, receives an average of 32,000 calls per year.

“That number’s not going to change,” he said. “What’s going to change is there’s going to be a lot of, ‘I’m sorry. We can’t be there.’”

He stressed that officers will always respond to life-threatening emergencies.

Gordon also explained the department’s personnel structure, noting there are “no more than four officers on each shift.”

The cuts that city councilors made to the Police Department’s proposed fiscal year 2023 budget include $400,000 for salaries, bringing the salary line down to $3.1 million, and $25,000 in expenses, bringing the total expense line to $275,000.

“I just feel it’s really abundantly clear that we need major change,” Precinct 4 Councilor John Bottomley commented during the May 19 budget discussion. “This is a long time coming, before I even moved to Greenfield.”

But Mayor Roxann Wedegartner called the move “a sad display of governing.”

“I fail to see how this is going to be helpful to the residents and taxpayers of Greenfield,” she said.

In addition to detectives and officers to staff the daytime, evening and overnight shifts, Gordon said there are normally six sergeants serving as supervisors and four commanders — two lieutenants, a deputy chief and a chief. Currently, he said, there is one lieutenant and himself.

Gordon has been acting chief since Wedegartner placed Chief Robert Haigh Jr. on paid administrative leave on May 6, citing information that came to light during the racial discrimination lawsuit filed by former Greenfield Police Officer Patrick Buchanan. Lt. Todd Dodge, a lead witness on Buchanan’s behalf, is also on paid administrative leave.

Gordon told the Public Safety Commission the budget cuts will have devastating consequences for the department and the city. He said potential cuts entail taking officers off shifts (resulting in fewer than three people working per shift), eliminating a shift and having zero police coverage during those hours, and getting rid of auxiliary positions such as detectives.

Gordon explained axing the detective bureau would mean lapses in sex offender audits and officers responding to comfort people’s loved ones in the event of unattended deaths. He also said investigations into sexual assaults, missing individuals, financial crimes and state Department of Children and Families cases would be lacking.

Gordon said the budget-slashing could also mean the elimination of the department’s K-9 patrol program and the cancellation of the planned “cop card program” — in which the department produces biographical information about officers in a format resembling baseball cards.

The acting chief also said that, despite rising inflation, his officers agreed to not receive cost-of-living raises.

The department took its Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon to announce that, effective as of 3 p.m. that day, it would implement changes as a result of “deep budget cuts by the City Council, coupled with fuel costs that are approximately double what (was) budgeted.”

According to the announcement, staffing will be reduced from four single-officer cruisers to a pair of two-officer cruisers, cruiser mileage will be limited to trips that are absolutely necessary to the force’s core mission, and the idling of cruisers will be limited to reduce fuel use.

Reach Domenic Poli at dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


Jobs



Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.


Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
 

 

Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy