Pelham police chief: ‘Desperate’ need for more officers

Published 11:09 pm Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Pelham Police Department is looking for more officers and new vehicles in its 2014 fiscal year budget. (File)

The Pelham Police Department is looking for more officers and new vehicles in its 2014 fiscal year budget. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Pelham Police Chief Tommy Thomas said he is in “desperate” need of four more officers, and said he is looking to start rolling out Chevrolet Tahoe police vehicles in the coming years during an Oct. 1 City Council budget hearing.

During the hearing, Thomas presented his 2014 budget request for the council’s consideration, and said his top priority is adding four more officers.

“I need this desperately. In my opinion, we’ve stretched the rubber band to the limit and it’s about to pop,” Thomas told council members. “We have not had any change in our staffing since 1998.”

Thomas said the department’s call volume and requests to work special events have increased significantly with Pelham’s gradual population rise.

After the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Thomas said he pulled two officers out of the patrol division to serve as school resource officers in the city’s schools.

If the four additional officers are approved in the city’s 2014 fiscal year budget, Thomas said he would be able to continue to have officers stationed in each school and also increase the number of officers on the department’s patrol beats.

“I am to a point now where it is having an adverse impact on morale,” Thomas said, noting short staffing could add to response times.

Thomas also asked for funding for five new Tahoe SUV police cruisers to replace high-mileage Ford Crown Victoria cruisers, which are no longer produced.

Thomas said each Tahoe will cost about $28,500, which is about $2,500 more per vehicle than a Dodge Charger police cruiser, which also are being used by the department.

“The Charger has been a good car for us so far, but we haven’t had them very long,” Thomas said. “We found out, looking at it nationally, we can run those (Tahoes) longer.”

Thomas said Chargers are recommended for retirement at a little more than 100,000 miles, while Tahoes are recommended for retirement at about 150,000-160,000 miles. Tahoes also have higher resale values, Thomas said.

The council will review city budget requests from Thomas and other Pelham department heads before finalizing the document and voting on it during an upcoming meeting. The council’s next regularly scheduled meeting is set for Monday, Oct. 7, and the council likely will hold a special-called meeting later this month to continue discussion on the budget, Council President Rick Hayes said.