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December 12, 2012

Rockport Police Department deals with staffing issues

New hire could be on table

ROCKPORT — A meeting between the town’s top two policemen and selectmen, supposedly to sign off on the officers’ contracts, became a discussion of the Police Department’s staffing shortages and scheduling issues.

Selectmen signed an agreement keeping John “Tom” McCarthy as chief of police for another year, giving him a small raise, but discussion of the contract for his second-in-command, Lt. Mark Schmink, devolved into a look at the makeup of the town force.

Schmink’s contract with the town would, if approved, allow him to earn overtime when filling in for other officers, if the offer was passed up by all other personnel and OK’d by McCarthy. The lieutenant is already doing this; the contract would be retroactive.

Selectmen questioned why Schmink would even need to fill in staff gaps and the discussion shifted gears to police staffing and how officers and supervisors are scheduled. The upshot is that selectmen will talk about hiring a new policeman and Schmink’s contract when they meet next Tuesday, Dec. 18.

When Schmink began working for the department in 1994, he estimated police received about 5,000 service calls a year, and now receive about 11,000 yearly, he said Wednesday. The force is also smaller — by two patrolmen and five reserves — than in 1994, which means fewer officers are answering more calls, he said.

Schmink, who is in charge of scheduling, said the force now has four supervisors­, ten patrol officers and three reserve staff.

Officers are often ordered to stay late, are called in, or work a double shift, himself included, because there is a gap in the schedule, the lieutenant said. Police take vacation days, personal days, sick days or are injured, too, he added.

“It overlaps perfectly for us to have that coverage — if nobody takes the day off, forever,” he said of the supervisors, of which he is one. “It’s not necessarily about me, it’s about the position and covering the police department.”

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