NAUGATUCK — It doesn’t appear the Naugatuck Police Department will have to cut any officers in the near future.
It wasn’t so clear to a number of residents a couple of days ago.
On Monday night, a resident flabbergasted borough officials when he pointed out a section of the borough charter that said the Naugatuck Police Department is only allowed to have 50 officers. Currently, the department has 54 and has had up to 57 in recent years.
Many of the 70 attendees at Monday’s budget hearing wondered: How did decades worth of local officials, many of whom have launched charter revision commissions while in office, not notice that provision?
However, it turns out that section of the charter doesn’t tell the full story, Mayor Robert Mezzo said.
He pointed out Wednesday that another section of the charter discusses a special law that was passed in 1953, which established the Board of Police Commissioners. That provision states that the police commission has the authority to hire as many police officers as it sees fit. The special law supersedes the section of the charter, which was written in the 1890s, that says Naugatuck is only allowed 50 uniformed officers
The federal Bureau of Justice reports that municipalities and townships in the United States have an average of 2.3 full-time officers per 1,000 residents. Naugatuck has more than 32,000 people, meaning it would need 73 or 74 officers to meet the nationwide average.
Still, budget naysayers think there are too many police officers in the borough. On Monday, resident Mike Stopa pointed out that Naugatuck has more officers than Shelton, which has about 8,000 more residents. Shelton has 51 police officers and is authorized to hire up to 62, though it usually hovers in the low 50s.
By comparison, Naugatuck’s proposed budget for the police department is $6.86 million for next year, while Shelton’s is about $50,000 less.