Police Advisory Commission seeks input

Mon, 01/24/2022 - 7:15am

The Police Advisory Commission discussed the needs of the community January 6 as it reviewed the feedback it has received thus far. The PAC put out a survey a couple of months ago to help illuminate what the community wants from its police force.
Chair Jim Hinthorn said three categories seemed to stick out to him, based on the responses: enforcement, management of people, and traffic safety. He said mopeds came up a lot, with member Carolyn Collins commenting that much of the feedback falls under “traffic.”
The committee agreed that the survey should be run again, and perhaps disseminated more widely than the Block Island Bulletin Board. Several members mentioned people who might not be on the BIBB and might not be on social media, who nonetheless would like to provide feedback. Collins suggested posters at the library, with Member Molly O’Neill suggesting the grocery and liquor stores as well. Feedback can be emailed to the Police Advisory Commission at policeadvisorycommission@new-shoreham.com.

Police Chief Matt Moynihan talked to the group about the difficulties of providing increased services with the department’s limited staff. He said the department is “very understaffed,” with a “real need of additional personnel.” Moynihan said that the use of the Community Service Officers over the summer had been helpful, as they are a “force multiplier,” but he said the CSOs can only do so much as they are not sworn
Moynihan said he understood there were people on both sides, some who think the town needs more police enforcement, and some who don’t. He said the department has to strike a balance between what the town needs and what people want in the police department. In
order to have more full-time staff in the summer, the chief said, the town will “need to have officers in the winter.”
Collins said that even if the department was “overstaffed” in the winter, there was “plenty to be done.”
The chief agreed, citing training and professional development as possible winter activities.
Even if he had the authority to hire more officers, it is not necessarily so easy to do. “We struggle with housing,” the chief said, which “makes recruitment hard.” With nowhere to live, a “young officer can’t raise a family here,” Moynihan said. O’Neill mentioned that she hears the same thing about the school, medical center, and fire department.
Member Andy Transue said that the CSOs seemed to be the “biggest bang for the buck.” The chief said that the “visibility” the CSOs provide is the “biggest deterrent.” There were eight CSOs this year, two of which were funded by the moped companies, according to Moynihan.
Hinthorn said he was “shocked and pleasantly surprised” that the moped operators had contributed to covering the CSO cost. Moynihan replied that “cooperation works,” with Hinthorn agreeing that everyone needs to “peacefully coexist and work together.”
Moynihan reported that the Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy had agreed to sponsor a CSO for the coming summer, and he hoped to have ten or twelve on staff. Collins said that maybe there would be other businesses that wanted to sponsor a CSO as well.

Moynihan said he was thinking of having two of the CSOs from last summer back as supervisors for the coming year, and new people to fill the remaining spots. He said there were 47 applicants for the eight spots last summer, so the department was able to
be “very choosy.” The requirements were that the applicant be enrolled in a criminal justice program at college, or interested in a career in law enforcement.
In addition to the CSOs, Moynihan expects the Rhode Island State Police will send out two officers on weekends. Calling the troopers a “huge addition,” he said that he did not have a commitment from the state as of yet. Although the State Police are experiencing their own “staffing challenges,” Moynihan said he anticipates having their help again this summer.
To reach the Police Advisory Commission with feedback and concerns, email policeadvisorycommission@new-shoreham.com.