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More in Opinion
Merger makes sense
At last week's public hearing in Paris – regarding the proposed Norway-Paris police merger – it appeared that the Paris Police were against the merger.
In reality, with the exception of one, it seems as though most officers were saying that they were fed up with the town of Paris, its budget committee and town board and saw the merger as one more example of those two entities trying to squeeze more for less from the department.
In fact, according to Paris Police Lt. Michael Dailey, 80 percent of the Paris Police Department is in favor of the merger. (Approximatley 1.5 people are not in favor of it....)
Of course the one exception was School Resource Officer (SRO) Skip Mowatt. The fact that Mowatt is still employed as a Paris Police Officer and is still SRO is testament to Chief David Verrier's generosity of spirit.
Anyone else would have fired him for such blatant insubordination or, at the very least, moved him from SRO to patrol. (During the meeting Mowatt told Verrier to step down if he didn't like his job.)
The fact the chairman of the selectboard allowed Mowat to address his remarks directly to Verrier, was inexcusable. No one else was allowed to and the officers were there to address the selectboard, share their concerns and answer questions.
It is no surprise Mowatt is unhappy with the merger. He would be moved from SRO to a supervisory patrol position (which could happen without the merger if his chief chooses.) His comments were solely self serving – not based on what is best for the town.
Because what exactly does a SRO do all day? Sounds like a cushy job with far less risk of life and limb, little physical effort, always the day shift and no weekends.
In fact, why is Paris supplying a SRO to a district that is populated by multiple towns, of which three have police departments? Wouldn't it be reasonable to have a rotation between Oxford, Norway and Paris?
SAD 17 pays for its officer and, we are lead to understand, it has no preference as to what agency supplies the officer. And why is SAD 17, which has cut its budget to the bone, paying for a sergeant with supervisor responsibilities as opposed to a less-per-hour lower- or no-ranked officer? What supervisory skills are needed as SRO? Who is the SRO supervising?
But we digress.
Then there is the question as to why towns pay for trained people – such as police chiefs and town managers – and then refuse to listen to them deciding that a board of selectmen comprised of elected residents knows more than those who were educated and trained for the jobs they hold.
The truth of the matter is that a merger such as this will better serve and protect the residents of both towns with more officers on duty during the afternoon-evening, highest call volume shifts.
It will better protect the officers who, daily, climb into their police cars not knowing what they will have to face that day and if they will have to face it alone, without immediate backup.
And it is fiscally wise – for residents of both towns.
What it won't do is hurt.
The officers are protected by the union. Currently, residents have, in each town, fewer officers on duty to respond to their needs and it is highly doubtful that a victim of a crime cares one iota what uniform the officer responding is wearing or used to wear.
Expertise will be shared and space will be better utilized. In this economic climate, and always, select boards have a responsibility to the citizens they represent to provide the best services possible without it costing more than the citizenry can bear. Shared services is the logical way to do that.
Public comments referring to "reputation" (in Paris – there were none in Norway) and other such references, are nothing but divisive. The past is just that. We need to set aside whatever differences might have been and look to each other for support and community.
Paris will always be Paris and Norway will always be Norway with both warts and wonderful.
These two towns have an opportunity to lead the state in wise use of resources. But first they have to be able to see past the end of their nose to what is really beneficial. What works for the greater good.
We hope that both boards (neither of which need public approval to do this) will make the sensible, safety conscious and fiscally cognizant choice to merge the police departments for, at the very least, a trial period.