South Portland police get temporary job help

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Police Chief Edward Googins expects to have more manpower on the streets by Jan. 1 after city councilors agreed to add a civilian staffer at Monday’s meeting.

By a 6-0 vote, with Councilor Al Livingston absent, councilors increased the police hourly account by $25,000 to pay for a half-year, full-time position for someone to prepare and process daily police activity reports.

Googins told councilors the work is currently done by a detective. He said he created a job description for an “administrative information assistant.”

The position would be funded from Jan. 1-June 30, 2013. Adding the full-time position on a permanent basis is expected to cost between $45,000 and $50,000 for salary and benefits. The police hourly account budget for the fiscal year was $2.87 million before the increase was approved.

Before voting to approve the council order, Councilor Maxine Beecher said it was important to understand the annual cost of the civilian position and that it must become part of annual budget deliberations.

City Manager James Gailey said he asked to fund the position after a June 25 workshop where Googins and councilors discussed a 2007 report on police staffing.

Former Mayor Claude Morgan initiated the study to determine how the city could attract and retain police officers, and concluded three more positions should be added by 2010. Gailey, then assistant city manager, and Googins were part of the study committee.

The report noted the police were using the same number of patrol vehicles as were on city streets 30 years before, and the department could have 75 percent of its workforce eligible for retirement by this year.

In 2010, the city received a $170,000 U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Police Services grant funding one new position for three years. To receive the grant, the city agreed to pay the salary and benefits for a new officer for a fourth year.

In a memo to councilors, Gailey said the position was filled last winter and the new officer has attended the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

Gailey said councilors were not prepared to discuss adding more police officers until the next budget cycle.

Councilor Rosemarie De Angelis asked Googins for more data about staffing, crime statistics and department needs sometime this fall, before council budget deliberations begin in earnest.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.