Police expansion needs thought
Why should it be necessary for Manchester tax payers to underwrite police coverage for Dorset? Or to expand our police department simply to provide police protection for other towns?
While the idea of Manchester and Dorset sharing fire and ambulance services may be appealing, having a joint Manchester -Dorset Police Department is an entirely different matter. That concept is apparently being driven by Dorset residents being unhappy with the level of paid State Police coverage, including delayed response times. Why should this be Manchester's responsibility? Dorset is free to contract with the Bennington County Sheriff for increased coverage, yet this does not seem to be part of the discussion.
Manchester residents ought to think long and hard about funding a police department which divides its responsibilities among two (or more) towns. Wouldn't our taxes go up to pay for more police and equipment? A recent Rutland Herald article suggested that a joint policing arrangement could result in just that. Do we really want - or need - more Manchester police officers? Manchester is a town of slightly over 4,000 people yet we have eight full time police officers, four part-time officers, having equipment ranging from Tasers to license plate reading computers in patrol cars.
Also, at any one time, State Troopers and Deputy Sheriffs can be seen roaming about Manchester, making motor vehicle stops. Would sharing our town police department with Dorset require the presence of more State Troopers and Deputy Sheriffs to fill in any coverage gaps? Why can't the State Police and Sheriffs instead be more proactive in policing Dorset? What about Dorset having its constables more involved?
This raises the larger question of how much of a police presence this area actually needs. For example, Zermatt, Switzerland is a resort village similar to Manchester, but which swells to 40,000 visitors in the wintertime. However, a part time Zermatt policeman recently told me that even at the height of the winter tourist season, with visitors from all over the world, Zermatt only employs 13 police officers. In other words a world famous resort having nearly 10 times the population of Manchester has almost the same number of police officers as we do!
More police protection inevitably requires more tax dollars.
It also means a heavier police presence in our daily lives, with potential loss of privacy. Is this what we really want? What's next, a drug dog for the Manchester Police Department? Or how about surveillance drones?
Bradley D. Myerson
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