Mass. PD could soon return to night shift patrols with new hires
Greenfield officials accepted the police department’s recommendations on quickly hiring new officers
By Luis Fieldman
GREENFIELD, Mass. — Four police recruits are close to being officially accepted after a key vote the city’s Public Safety Commission took Wednesday night, possibly clearing the way to filling Greenfield’s overnight police scheduling gap.
The commission unanimously accepted the police department’s recommendations of the new recruits, the last step before the mayor decides on making the hires official.
Questions linger over how quickly they can join the police force if hired and when a recent scheduling change to overnight police patrols can be reversed. On March 1, Massachusetts State Police took over responding to 911 calls from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. in Greenfield after Police Chief Robert Haigh and Mayor Roxann Wedegartner told city officials that recent staffing departures and funding constraints forced an entire shift to be eliminated.
What could have been an eight-hour gap in service turned into a four-hour gap in police patrols after Haigh and Wedegartner scrapped their original plan and entered into a memorandum of agreement with unionized police officers. The result was police officers agreed to work 10-hour shifts, without overtime pay but with a $600 compensation per pay period, until June 30, the end of the municipal fiscal year.
The city’s Public Safety Commission met on Wednesday with Deputy Chief William Gordon who presented the new recruits and said all four have conditional offers of employment. The police department is putting new recruits through the paces of training and certification as quickly as possible. Gordon said he hopes to get them on the streets of Greenfield in the coming weeks and months.
“I’m not able to tell you exactly when we’ll be able to go back to those 24-hour patrols at this time,” Gordon said. “But we’re looking at possibilities.”
Some recruits will be ready to hit the streets sooner than others.
Victor Placinta is currently a part-time, reserve officer in Greenfield and will need to get an academy waiver for his full-time certification from the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission. Gordon said he anticipates Placinta, who already has a part-time certification, will obtain the waiver next week and could be on patrol duty as early as April 1.
Cameron Johnson, already a full-time certified POST officer, has to go through field training with the Greenfield police. Gordon said he could be “on the road by himself anywhere between four and 12 weeks, depending on the speed of his training.”
“We anticipate that the training is going to be a little faster than a typical candidate,” Gordon said.
The path to patrol for the other two recruits will take a little longer. “The other two you probably won’t see on the road for about a year, maybe next January,” Gordon said.
Alyssa Ippolito, currently a dispatcher within the department, and Melvin Moreno, who works for the Amherst College student affairs department, will need to go through the police academy before they join the Greenfield Police Department — a process that could take anywhere from nine months to a year before they are on the road by themselves, according to Gordon.
“You bring such a wide array of experience, I am really forward to you growing and becoming excellent officers for Greenfield,” Wedegartner told the new recruits as she appeared virtually at the Wednesday night meeting.
A $375,000 federal grant awarded to the city of Greenfield will go toward funding the new hires, Gordon said.
Haigh pinned the reason for the elimination of the overnight shift to a 6% cut to his department’s budget last year at a previous meeting. Since the start of the fiscal year in July 2022, the department has seen six officers leave, and with a lack of new recruits, Haigh said he was forced to make a difficult decision.
It is unclear how long a command post set up by the State Police in the parking lot of the Greenfield Police Department will last.
“After 30 days, the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security and the State Police will re-assess the current plan to determine appropriate next steps,” State Police spokesperson David Procopio wrote to MassLive in a statement.
“The mobile command post serves as a base of operations for our Troopers supporting the local police department’s overnight shift,” Procopio wrote. Other questions regarding the command post, such as how many officers are stationed there and how it impacts other communities, were not returned.
Gordon directed all questions about the command post to State Police.
Since March 1, State Police have answered 38 calls in Greenfield, and nearly half were in a four-hour period during a recent late-winter snowstorm on Tuesday, March 14. Seven of the calls were miscellaneous or hang-ups; two were car crashes; two were well-fare checks; two for suspicious persons; a domestic disturbance; a larceny; an overdose; and a breaking and entering that turned into a rape, according to Gordon.
“Obviously, it’s not sustainable,” Gordon said about the new overnight shift schedule. “We need to be able to handle our calls.”