Weston Police Chief John Troxell was on a routine house visit when one of his officers rolled his ankle while walking out the door. "He'd been working two or three double shifts in a row," Troxell said. "He was out for about a couple months because of that. That's a fatigue injury."
The police department has been down an officer for three years, Troxell said. In the bad economy, the town decided not to hire a new police officer and chose to pay overtime instead. But the costs have added up. Last year, $157,312 was budgeted for police overtime, Finance Director Rick Darling said. When the final numbers came in, police were paid $234,034 in overtime nearly $77,000 over budget.
"It looks like we got this huge overage in overtime," Troxell said. "But that doesn't include workmen's compensation payments, which reimburse 75 percent."
After factoring in the insurance claims, the overtime payments were about $15,000 over budget, Darling said. However, if the town continues to file multiple claims, it could lead to higher insurance rates. The real cost, according to Troxell, is the strain that overtime exerts on the officers, which can lead to fatigue injuries.
"We've had three guys out with line-of-duty injuries this year," Troxell said. "It would be more strategic for us to try to combat this by maybe filling that officer's position, and take a little bit of strain off the manpower so guys aren't just working constantly. That, I think, would in some ways decrease the amount of on-duty injuries. On-duty injuries are usually caused by fatigue."
First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said the Weston Board of Police Commissioners has not approached her regarding a new officer, but it could be considered in the budget meeting Jan. 3.
Should the town hire a new police officer? Or should the officers continue to work many overtime shifts?
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