Chief: Milford police officer vacancies could be struggle to fill

Milford Police Chief Keith Mello speaks to the graduates of the Milford Police Academy July 10, 2019 at the Parsons Government Center in Milford, Conn.

Milford Police Chief Keith Mello speaks to the graduates of the Milford Police Academy July 10, 2019 at the Parsons Government Center in Milford, Conn.

Jill Dion / Hearst Connecticut Media

MILFORD — The department has several police officer vacancies and anticipates some difficulty filling the roles, a problem other departments across the state have faced.

Currently, there are 12 openings for police officers, and the police department is expecting another four or five openings by October, said Chairman Richard Smith.

“I wonder how much of this issue stems from the employment pressures that every company, business and municipality is feeling,” he said.

Police Chief Keith Mello said another local police academy will begin on Oct. 21.

“This is the case with all departments in the state and the country,” he said. “There is difficulty in recruiting individuals who qualify as well as the numbers needed to fill the vacancies.”

At the moment, officers are often being held for extra shifts, which is affecting their overall morale, reported Mello. He added that he anticipates this will continue throughout the summer.

“This is why I included in my proposal for the 2022-23 budget a request for an additional four officers,” he added. “If those four officers could be hired, it would put the department at full strength.”

Mello proposed $13.2 million for personal services in the 2022-23 budget, the biggest portion of the proposal since the total funds requested is $15.5 million — a more than $2 million increase from the 2021-22 projected budget of $13.8 million.

Mello said he had been told that 95 percent of the people going through the process fail the polygraph test.

“My concern is that there is a lack of interest, and all departments are competing against each other for qualified candidates,” he added.

“There is a possibility that we can be filling vacancies with less than ideal candidates,” said Smith.

“This could be a possibility, but the department will have a renewed effort into training to ensure the best outcome,” added Mello.

Commissioner David Rubenstein noted in the past Mello was not in favor of lateral transfers and asked if this is something he might consider now.

“It might be time to start looking at that,” said Mello. “There are a lot of police officers leaving departments and looking to move to another department, but I’m not in favor of looking for someone else's disciplinary problems. Also, there are officers who have reached the age and number of years to collect a pension but want to continue their career and are looking to other departments where their earnings could be better.”