To the Editor:
Manchester voters, do you enjoy paying your property tax bill? Do you believe that our 12 person police department, consisting of 8 full time and 4 part time officers, is large enough and does a good job? If you agree, then you should oppose the $75,000.00 budget appropriation at this Saturday's Town Meeting for Manchester hiring yet another police officer.
Our Select Board likes to preach fiscal responsibility and keeping our property taxes as low as possible. Somehow that mantra was conveniently forgotten when - subject to voter approval at Town Meeting - they decided to add another police officer. The police officer budget addition was to allow for a current Manchester officer to become a Detective focusing on drug enforcement, so that the newly hired officer would fill their place. To justify that, the Select Board rather vaguely claims that we need to spend more money fighting drugs in our community. A closer look, however, shows that the expense of hiring an additional officer is simply unjustified.
Chief Michael Hall does a fine job leading a capable police department which is sufficiently staffed and funded. However, that at any given time, there are also State Troopers and Deputy Sheriffs prowling around Manchester, stopping motorists for such serious public safety violations as failing to use a turn signal at 1 o'clock in the morning or flicking cigarette ash out of a car window. The need for another police officer in Manchester, is even less justifiable when realizing that the State Police Drug Task Force just received another taxpayer funded windfall of $1.4 million dollars to hire five drug enforcement detectives. This past autumn, the Drug Task Force set up shop in Manchester for a period of time.
Did you know that Manchester Police also help out on DUI Patrols in other towns? During a New Years Eve motor vehicle stop in Winhall, two Manchester Police Officers joined two Winhall Police Officers during the stop of single allegedly impaired driver who was compliant and non-threatening. A perusal of the Weekly Police Log published in the Journal shows a plethora of false alarm responses, minor neighborhood issues, and the like. While it is true that motor vehicle stops are not included in the police log, fortunately Manchester is a relatively peaceful and quiet community. This is due to our demographics and social culture as much as it is because of the quality of work performed by the Manchester Police Department.
By comparison, we are being told that we must accept the cost of another police officer because it has been 24 years since the Manchester Police Department last increased its ranks and, again, we need a Detective to do drug enforcement investigations. These are merely abstract arguments which simply do not justify hiring another police officer. Remember that hiring another officer is not just a one-time fixed cost of $75,000, but there are associated expenses for equipment, insurance, benefits, etc. which will increase over time. Once this officer is hired, when can we expect the next plea by the Selectmen that we need a 14th officer? Recognizing that the State Police have more than enough drug investigators, and that the State Police and Sheriff's Department spend plenty of time in Manchester, adding a 13th officer to the Manchester Police Department is unjustified and unfairly burdens Manchester taxpayers. The $75,000.00 appropriation for this officer should be voted from the budget on the floor at Town Meeting. Our taxes are high enough without it.
Bradley D. Myerson