Since taking office, one of my top priorities has been to re-energize and professionalize police services through new management techniques, community policing and increased staffing. While crime has steadily declined across all categories over the last three and a half years that I have been in office, I still hear from residents that public safety is a concern. These residents remind me that our work is never truly done, and we must continually reaffirm our commitment to making our community safer and improve our efforts wherever and whenever possible.
During the 1990’s the department had close to 117 members. When I took office in January 2012, staffing was down to a dangerously low level of only 84 officers. For a growing urban community of 52,000 residents these staffing levels were completely unacceptable. Since that time, we have increased staffing at the department to 97 officers. Ideally, I would like to see that number grow to 120 officers. However, until we have the resources to meet that goal, I am working to ensure that every dollar spent on public safety goes directly to making our city safer.
To that end, we recently attempted to begin “civilianizing” administrative functions in the Police Department. This is a best practice that hundreds of cities and towns across the country have implemented. Police Officers should be on the street, not behind a desk doing work that civilians can do for less money. It makes no sense to pay a senior captain more than $100,000 to do payroll. Unfortunately the City Council did not see fit to approve this nationally recognized best practice and voted it down during the budget process.
We will continue to pursue civilianization, along with other avenues for reform. To that end, we have engaged the Edward J. Collins Center for Public Management at the University of Massachusetts-Boston to highlight areas where we can improve funding allocations and professionalize management techniques. Currently, our Police Department is undergoing a Strategic Planning Initiative with professional consultants who have years of experience in police services. The goal of the initiative is to review and update the vision and values of the department, assess the organizational structure, and inventory current programs.
Finally, we have revitalized our community policing efforts over the past three years. We established a new substation on Broadway in order to give residents and community members better access to officers. We also expanded National Night Out to two locations. Going forward, I have asked Chief Joe Cafarelli to continue working on new community policing programs. One of these new proposals is the new “Police Office Hours.” These office hours will be held every month, on a set schedule, in every Ward of the city. Police Officers will be available during these times to discuss issues with residents without having to visit the police department.
Amongst a long list of priorities, none is more important than public safety. While we have a tremendous Police and Fire Department, I will remain focused on creating ways to make them even that much better.
Dan Rizzo is the Mayor for the City of Revere.