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Concerned About Police Staffing, Duggan Puts Moratorium On Lateral Transfers

Aug 14, 2017 11:43PM ● By Andrew Sylvia

Town Manager Jim Duggan (file photo)

On Tuesday night, the Board of Selectmen and Dracut Town Manager Jim Duggan held a lengthy discussion regarding a Duggan's decision to place a moratorium on permission for police officers to transfer into other municipalities.

Also known as “lateral transferring”, the discussion began thanks to a memorandum sent on August 3 from Duggan to union officials indicating that Dracut’s current staffing levels could not support the loss of any further officers.

Duggan told the board that up to eight unnamed individuals sought lateral transfers, although the current staffing levels within the Dracut Police Department would make a loss of even two officers difficult for the department to absorb.

While Duggan said the main reason for retention was ensuring public safety, additional costs to the town (between $120,000 and $160,000 from retraining and overtime) also played a role in the decision.

Members of the board understood Duggan’s position, but some worried about potential morale issues within the department following the move, fearing a backlash from future police applicants who may choose to work in other towns over Dracut for possible greater career advancement.

Duggan said that while he has tried to work with members of the department to ensure they can achieve career goals in Dracut, his primary goal was the needs of Dracut residents, not the career advancement of his employees.

He added that the concerns regarding lateral advancement also only came from a handful of employees within the department.

“This is only a morale issue if we let it be a morale issue,” he said.

Duggan apologized to Selectman Jesse Forcier after Duggan had said he was disappointed with members of the department coming to the selectmen with their concerns.

Forcier told Duggan that it is the job of the selectmen to hear issues from all town residents, even those employed by the town. Duggan agreed, and said his concern was eliminating the perception that discontent within the department spread beyond those officers seeking a transfer.

The department’s roster size has been a topic of discussion throughout the past year, with hopes by town officials to increase the force to 46 officers over the next three years.

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