EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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June 14, 2013

Mayor says firefighter morale up, overtime and sick leave down

Police proposal adds 3 officers, walking beats

HAVERHILL — Last night’s annual City Council review of proposed spending for the fire and police departments was somewhat of an oddity, at least compared to recent years.

Police Chief Alan DeNaro said he was satisfied to be getting three more patrolmen, although he said he could use more. In past years, Mayor James Fiorentini has cut police staffing and spending over the chief’s objections.

The new positions will bring the police compliment of officers to 91, the mayor said. His budget also includes money for two nighttime walking police beats in the downtown area.

“We want people who are out with their families to see our officers,” DeNaro said. “And we want criminals and the disruptive element that’s out there to see that downtown is not a good place for them.”

All told, there are five new police officers joining the department, including four who are starting at the police academy Monday and one who will begin her training in September, DeNaro said. Two of officers are filling vacant positions.

DeNaro, who as public safety commissioner also oversee the Fire Department, even declined to identify additional items he would like to see in his budget when he was invited to add to a spending “wish list” councilors are compiling.

“A lot of our issues have been resolved between the union and management,” officer Rick Welch, vice president of the patrolman’s association, said outside the meeting after DeNaro presented the police budget.

The police union has been especially critical of low staffing levels in recent years, saying it has put the safety of residents at risk and hurt the morale of overworked officers.

“There’s been much better cooperation between the two sides than there’s been in the past,” Welch said last night.

The meeting was also notable for who wasn’t there. Unlike prior years when firefighters packed the room to lobby for more men or better equipment, not a single firefighter was there last night.

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