Milford police focus on pay, hours, equity to attract officers

MILFORD — In the past few months, the Milford Police Department has lost four officers: one to retirement, two that moved out of state, and one who left to go to another department.

"At this time, we are at 116 and should be at 120," Chief Keith Mello told the police commission at its meeting Monday.

Even that 120-officer tally is a bit on the low side, Mello said, adding that 128 officers "would be a good number but it's not going to happen in this economy."

During the meeting, Mello noted that it has become evident many officers do not want to work beyond the regular work week, and don't necessarily look at the department as a long-term career.

"This generation of workers has no intention of working 25 years in one location, but will work three to five years and then move on to something else," he said.

Commissioner David Rubenstein agreed.

"It is evident that college students do not want to be police officers, but they are looking at other areas within law enforcement," he said.

The department expects 10 graduates from the next police academy class to join the force, but Mello explained they will graduate in the spring and, at that point, the department will have another five to seven openings. He said at that point the department will advocate for one additional officer per shift.

In an effort to attract new recruits, Mello said the city should be looking at the compensation package for officers.

"We have been focused on what we need to do to be an employer of choice," he said.

Following the discussion, Chairman Richard Smith said the commission would have to discuss coming up with a long-term strategy taking into consideration things like pay, equity, hours, generational gap, and fallout from COVID-19.

"We intend to try and address the long-term solution while keeping in mind the importance of support and respect and addressing the work/life balance," said Mello. "I would be in support of this commission having conversations on such priorities."

But even as the city talks about long-term solutions to recruiting, Mello noted the department already provides high levels of training, which is why Milford is considered one of the top departments to join.

Mello agreed to share the results of a department survey at a future meeting to help clarify "what is on the mind of the staff at the police department."