Offbeat This Massachusetts town's entire police department resigned, four officers in all

03:35  03 august  2018
03:35  03 august  2018 Source:   usatoday.com

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All four members of the department in the western Massachusetts town resigned this week.CreditBlandford Police Department , via Facebook. Nor, for that matter, was there a Blandford police officer to be found anywhere else on Tuesday. The entire local police force in this western

The entire Blandford Police Department in Blandford, Massachusetts , resigned Monday citing low pay, poor equipment and unsafe working conditions. "The town is asking officers to patrol in cars that have no a/c, no snow tires, and no four wheel drive, on days that have been 90 plus degrees

Former Interim Police Chief Roberta Sarnacki sits in one of the Blandford Police Department squad cars, which she says had problems with the brakes and overheating. © Photo: Courtesy of Roberta Sarnacki Former Interim Police Chief Roberta Sarnacki sits in one of the Blandford Police Department squad cars, which she says had problems with the brakes and overheating. BOSTON – The entire police department of a small Massachusetts town resigned Monday saying town officials have failed to address their concerns about low pay and unsafe equipment.

All four members of the Blandford Police Department made the decision to resign last Friday after alerting town officials multiple times about unsafe working conditions, according to former Interim Police Chief Roberta Sarnacki.

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An entire police department in Massachusetts resigned en masse Tuesday after complaints about unsafe conditions reportedly went unanswered. The resignation of all four officers in Blandford, with a population of about 1,200, left the town with none remaining on the force.

An entire police force in a Massachusetts town resigned this week, with officers saying they’ re fed up with low pay, dangerously old “The entire Blandford Police Department resigned this evening, effective immediately,” the small town ’ s four -person department wrote on its Facebook page Monday.

"It became more and more apparent how dangerous this situation was," said Sarnacki. "The enormity of it all just kicked in on Friday." 

The officers dealt with old squad cars that didn't work, old bulletproof vests that didn't fit, poor radio communications, inadequate staffing and low wages, according to a statement.

"The town is asking officers to patrol in cars that have no a/c, no snow tires, and no four wheel drive, on days that have been 90 plus degrees, and previously in blizzard conditions," the statement read.

"They are asking us to do this with no radio coverage, no real backup if needed, and all for $14 or $15 an hour. Would you put your lives on the line in these conditions? I don’t think so."

Sarnacki said she'd taken the cruisers to get fixed – one was still in the shop – and planned to apply for grants for new bulletproof vests. But it became clear the problem was more systemic.

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All four officers of the Blandford Police Department walked out.

The entire police force in a Western Massachusetts town resigned this week after citing low pay The Blandford Police Department , which consisted of interim Police Chief Roberta Sarnacki and “The town is asking officers to patrol in cars that have no a/c, no snow tires, and no four -wheel drive

"There was a lot of problems there; initially I had hoped that I could fix some of them," she said. "It became apparent that I was just putting Band-Aids on them."

But town officials say these issues were either already resolved or never brought to their attention in the first place.

"I was really surprised by the steps that they had taken without bringing any concerns to the board or giving us any prior notification that this was a possibility," said Cara Letendre, chairwoman of the board of selectmen. Letendre said she first learned of the resignation during a meeting about a forthcoming merger with another town’s police force.

Letendre said the problems with the cruisers had already been addressed and that the radio issues, a consequence of living in a hilly area, would be resolved when the town gets broadband next year. The issues with the vests, Letendre said, had never been brought to her attention but could be resolved by applying for a grant. 

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All four officers in the Blanford Police Department , including Interim Police Chief Roberta Sarnacki, signed a statement, obtained by Massachusetts -based newspaper The Republican, about the “The entire Blandford Police Department resigned this evening, effective immediately,” the post said.

The entire police force of Blandford, Massachusetts , has resigned . As of Monday night, there were zero town police officers working to serve them. A mass resignation of Blandford' s entire police department , led by Interim Police Chief Roberta Sarnacki, occurred after they claim they endured

In response to Sarnacki's staffing concerns, Letendre said adding more officers was unnecessary in a small town with a near-zero crime rate. Pay rates are voted on by the town itself, not the board, she said, and low rates are likely due to "our inability as a small town to pay competitive wages."

While she said she understood that small towns are generally cash-strapped, Sarnacki said Blandford was simply not allocating enough money to the public safety department.

"This town seems to just not be doing due diligence," she said. "It seems that the board was more interested in pursuing a merger with another nearby police department."

In addition to unsafe conditions, Sarnacki said officers were frustrated that the town had not offered her a permanent position as chief. Plus, she said, the possible merger "seems like it would be a logistical nightmare." 

With no replacement police force, Blandford's 1,200 residents can still call 911 for emergencies and contact Massachusetts State Police for other police services. State police and the sheriffs office have brought in additional officers to help cover the area, Sarnacki said.

Though Blandford lost its police department, Sarnacki said the town is seemingly now "much more covered than it ever has been."

Letendre, the select board chairwoman, said applications for new officers are pouring in and the board would review applicants for a new interim chief in the two weeks. But the more imminent concern, she said, was the media attention the town is drawing.

For now, with the help of state and local police, she said "we're functioning."

Follow N'dea Yancey-Bragg on Twitter: @NdeaYanceyBragg

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