Cambridge City Council hears police woes

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CAMBRIDGE — On April 19, members of the Cambridge City Council heard police officers tell of missing pay raises and an understaffed police department, leading to few new officers and trouble holding on to the ones currently in the CPD. “The main issue is the loss of officers due to all that is going on within our country, our state and the City of Cambridge,” Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #27 President Thomas Hurley said in a statement to the Banner. “My position on this is that the City of Cambridge must pay their officers or they will lose them to other departments with better pay, benefits and that are less dangerous.”

Mr. Hurley, who retired as a sergeant with more than 20 years of service, said almost all the 34 officers now in the department are many years behind in their scheduled pay raises. Four officers have resigned already this year, meaning the CPD is down 10 from its authorized strength of 46 — and that’s including two cadets who are currently at the academy.

“The pay issue is so bad that the department can not keep officers much past five years before they quit and go elsewhere,” Mr. Hurley said. “56% of the department has five years or fewer of service.” Speaking to Mayor Andrew Bradshaw and commissioners at the meeting, Chief Mark Lewis said, “We are at a critical stage in our staffing.”

Since 2018, the CPD has lost 19 officers, with 11 going to other, higher paying, agencies, which are now actively trying to lure away Cambridge’s officers.

Cpl. Jennifer Benton said the current 12-hour shifts are exhausting her colleagues, who not only have to work their regular shifts, but also staff special events, and attend court, among other duties.

“At some point, enough is enough,” she said. “That’s why some officers are leaving.” Police reform bills passed in the recent legislative session have officers worried that they can be prosecuted for their responses during emergencies, another issue that is pushing some officers to less violent towns.

After hearing the officers’ views, the mayor and commissioners voiced their support, and said they would examine ways to bring their pay to the promised levels. Some moves could be made soon, while others will probably have to wait for budget discussions this summer. “We’re going to find a way,” Mayor Bradshaw said.