The Bourne Police Department is down eight officers—and Police Chief Dennis R. Woodside is not surprised.
“The amount of people that want to be police officers has gone down significantly,” Chief Woodside said, “across the country, not to mention here.”
The chief, who has commanded the department since December 2010, decried what he sees as an increasing lack of desire among people to join a police force.
One reason for the decline in interest in a law enforcement career, Chief Woodside said, is the scrutiny a police officer faces these days.
That spotlight, he said, can be overwhelming. He said people across the country right now are “very divisive with police,” and the new generation does not want to put up with the difficulties that poses.
“Who wants to be criticized all the time?” he said. “Some scumbag might know where you live, so you have to always be on guard wherever you go, for yourself and your family.”
The chief made his comments during a budget presentation at a joint session Monday of the board of selectmen and the finance committee.
Keeping the department fully staffed, the chief said, has been a challenge over the past decade.
In that time, he said, the department has been fully staffed just once, and that was only for about two weeks.
At present, the chief said, total staffing for the Bourne Police Department is 55 people. Of that number, he said, 37 are police officers, which includes patrolmen, detectives, evidence officers, a court officer and a school resource officer. In addition, there are seven sergeants, two lieutenants, the chief, four dispatchers, an administrative assistant, two account clerks and a custodian, he said.
Compounding the police department’s personnel issues is the temporary loss of several staff members who are currently out, or scheduled to go, on leave. The chief said one dispatcher is out on maternity leave, and an officer will be going on maternity leave soon. He said two other officers are on leave, including one who was injured on duty.
“Will we ever be fully staffed? Probably not,” he said.
At present there are eight open patrolman positions with the Bourne Police Department, Chief Woodside said. Seven candidates are either headed to the police academy on Joint Base Cape Cod or starting field training prior to going on patrol, he said. One officer recently left the department on disability retirement.
Seven of the eight open positions have been filled with candidates, but they will not be ready for full-time duty with the department until sometime this fall, he said.
On Monday, February 17, five candidates will start at the police academy, where they will train for five months. After the academy the candidates will join the Bourne police, but they have to spend several months in training before becoming patrolmen, the chief said.
Field training takes place at the Bourne station, where candidates learn a variety of tasks, including desk and dispatch responsibilities. Candidates do go out on patrol, but with a certified training officer, the chief said.
Also on Monday, the chief said, two candidates who have already been through the academy begin field training with the department. One is a transfer from the MBTA Transit Police Department, he said, and the other put herself through the academy without being sent by a specific police department.
The Bourne Police Department is a civil service department, which means it hires from a list of candidates who have passed the civil service exam for acceptance to the police academy. Civil service develops a series of lists, including one that contains the names of people who are local, living either in Bourne or nearby, the chief said.
Chief Woodside said that most police departments, including Bourne, prefer to hire someone who is local. There is less chance the department will spend money on training, only to have that individual leave for another department that might be closer to home.
The chief said he has “already burned through our local civil service list, and now we’re on the statewide list.”