Worcester, MA (April 9, 2012) - Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Petty, members of the Worcester City Council and City Manager Michael V. O'Brien announced today that a new police recruit academy will begin in July. The academy will welcome 25 new recruits to complete a strict regimen of intense training and education for six months. After successful completion of the academy, the recruits will be sworn in as police officers and will be ready to join the force at the beginning of next year.
The new recruit class comes at a time when staffing in the police department is at an historic low. Over the past few years, staffing levels were reduced from 484 to 418 due to strains of the continued recession, reductions in State Aid and resultant budget cuts. Currently, there are 323 patrolmen, well below the baseline of 330 set at the depth of the national economic strife in 2009. The department has not had a police academy since 2008.
City Manager O'Brien and Police Chief Gary J. Gemme indicated that timing of this recruit class was essentially given the level of attrition that is to take place within the department over the next few years through retirements and vacancies.
Mayor Petty, the City Council's Standing Committee on Public Safety, chaired by City Councilor William J. Eddy, and the City Council as a whole listened to the concerns of the community and met individually with the City Manager over the past few months to discuss their Fiscal Year 2013 Budget priorities and it was clear a new police recruit class was one of two.
The City Manager, in consultation with Chief Gemme and Chief Financial Officer Thomas Zidelis, recommended a temporary override of the Worcester Police Department's table of organization to increase the staffing levels and allow for the new recruit class of 25, while ensuring that it was financially sustainable within the broader fiscal picture.
"I have heard loud and clear the concerns of the City Council and our residents relative to manpower levels in our public safety departments. I worked closely with Chief Gemme, Chief Financial Officer Zidelis and my team to increase staffing levels within the context of current economic conditions," said City Manager O'Brien. "We still find ourselves in the midst of sluggish national and regional economies and we continue to identify areas for long-term cost savings. These decisions to add classes of both police officers and firefighters have set the priorities moving into the Fiscal Year 2013 budget process. I will still be required to make difficult decisions to close the remaining Fiscal Year 2013 $3.2 million deficit to maintain levels of municipal services."
"Public safety is a top priority for me and this City Council. After several tough budget cycles, we are currently down almost 60 police officers. We must bring our staffing levels back," said Mayor Joseph M. Petty. "Under my leadership and that of this City Council, we have strongly advocated for the addition of these new police officers to ensure that Worcester remains one of the safest and livable cities. I am proud of the Administration's work to make this a reality in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget."
The academy will prepare the recruits to carry out the Worcester Police Department's mission to promote the highest level of public safety and quality of life, through exceptional police services to city residents, businesses and visitors.