By Max Bowenemail@example.com
Faced with a significant shortage of officers, the North Attleborough Police are looking at re-assigning some personnel to the regular patrol, including School Resource Officer Kristine Crosman.
According to Police Chief Richard McQuade, Crosman would likely be reassigned in late February or early March. It’s one of many changes that the department has made in recent weeks to cope with what he called a “staffing crisis.”
“We have the support of the town, but our recruitment numbers are down 50 percent,” said McQuade at the Town Council meeting on Jan. 31. “That’s just a fact.”
Officer Crosman has been with the department for around 19 years and was appointed to the SRO position in August 2019. A petition on Change.org signed by 309 people calls for increasing pay for NAPD Officers. The creator of the petition wrote that some students have safety concerns with Crosman gone and others have come to rely on her.
“With the Resource Officer here, students feel safe,” the petition states. “The students in the school trust her.”
In addition to reassigning Crosman, the chief said detectives and court prosecutors may also being shifted to the regular patrol. McQuade said there are a number of factors, one of which being a salary gap with other communities. In the last two months he said that five officers have left the department. Another eight retired over the last 18 months.
“The 911 calls keep coming in and it’s a better service to the community and department if we have proper staffing on the road,” said the chief.
Town Manager Michael Borg said he supports the chief’s decision and has been in several meetings with him and School Superintendent John Antonucci. He wants to assure the public that the town is not walking away from the problem of the SRO position.
“The chief is very concerned and he’s communicated with me,” he said. “We’ve worked out the best way to work our way through it. We remain committed to this.”
Town Council President Justin Pare added that he has also spoken with Antonucci and the desire is to not only have the SRO position restored, but for there to be more than one in North Attleborough.
“It’s not just a North Attleborough thing—this is happening across the country,” he said. “It’s a tough time in that industry for a lot of reasons.”
The problem is not limited to North Attleborough. McQuade said that recruitment numbers are down nationwide, and according to a study by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), it’s been an issue for some time. The report showed that sixty-three percent of agencies that responded to a PERF survey said applicants for police officer positions had decreased, either significantly (36 percent) or slightly (27 percent), over the past five years.
The study also showed that many who left police work did so to pursue a career outside of law enforcement. Another issue has been the growing number of officers approaching retirement. McQuade said that COVID has only made this problem worse.
“Throw in the pandemic and its a perfect storm,” he said.
There was some good news to come from the discussion. McQuade told the council that he recently hired seven new recruits and three would be finished with their training by the fall. He hopes to have a School Resource Officer back in place by the time school resumes in September.