A combination of budget constraints and sidelined officers has decreased Falmouth’s police force to 49 officers. Falmouth Police Chief Edward A. Dunne told selectmen Monday night that his department is approved to be staffed with 66 officers, his ideal number, but the town budget only allows for 58. Four officers are out on administrative leave and one is injured. Four have been hired recently, but will not be ready to work until they graduate from the police academy and complete field training.
“It’s tight. Especially with all the special events we cover in town,” Chief Dunne said.
In his quarterly report to selectmen, Chief Dunne said the number of service calls is up 7 percent over last year, with a total of 14,000 calls.
“It’s narcotics. Heroin is the drug of choice because it’s cheap. It’s plaguing America,” he said.
He said the force is charging individuals with possession, distribution and trafficking of heroin, Percocet, marijuana, and cocaine.
“I’m sorry to say we found the first meth lab on Cape Cod. With a joint effort between Barnstable police, Falmouth police and the Drug Enforcement Agency, we were able to put the operation to an end very quickly,” he said.
Selectman Douglas H. Jones asked the chief how many more officers are needed to really make a difference, keeping in mind his ideal number is not feasible now.
“Ideally, I’d like 64 officers. In 2008 we had seven people in our detective division, and now we’re down to three. I had to pull four officers and put them back on the road,” Chief Dunne said.
“Right now we’re prioritizing which cases to follow up on. We’re doing what we can,” he added.
He said it is almost a year between the hire date and the date when an officer is fully trained and ready to work. To fill vacancies quickly, he looks for what he called “laterals.”
“These are fully trained officers looking to transfer to Falmouth. It’s worked out well in the past,” he said.
Selectman Rebecca R. Moffitt asked if Falmouth’s officer salary is competitive with other towns.
“I believe it is. It’s not the highest, and certainly not the lowest,” he said.
He said he likes to walk streets in town to be able to talk with citizens and business owners, and asks his officers to do the same when they have time.
“Our officers are too busy with calls to be able to do this, but hopefully when the season slows, they can resume walking.”
However, Chief Dunne did hire a patrolman for the summer to walk Main Street, which he said has produced positive results.
He was happy to report that the department held the first citizens police academy in seven years.
“Twenty-seven new graduates now have a shared experience with law enforcement and better understanding of how the police department works. I look forward to holding two more this year.”
The traffic on the Fourth of July improves each year, he said, as they keep working on ways to improve traffic routes.