Burlington’s city council has given the city’s police department a green light to add four new civilian positions in order to relieve some of the workload on the department’s uniformed officers.
During a regularly-scheduled meeting on Tuesday, the council unanimously signed off on the department’s request for a public information specialist to direct the agency’s external communications and three police services specialists to field calls from residents, enter reports into the department’s computerized record system, and handle other duties that don’t necessarily require a uniformed officer.
The council approved these four posts at the urging of Burlington’s newly-installed police chief Brian Long, who stressed that these new, non-sworn staff members will free up his officers to do the work they were originally hired to do.
“This is part of a strategy that should address our recruitment and retention issues,” Long assured the city’s elected leaders. “Since I became chief, I made it a priority to address the workplace environment.”
Long told the council that the three police service specialists will take over menial assignments like entering reports that can become a uniformed officer’s bane when the police force is short-handed.
“We believe these three positions will allow us to recapture some of the time that is being spent by patrol officers in the field completing these reports,” he added.
Long said that he expects to see the same sort of benefit from the delegation of the department’s public relations to a civilian employee. He reminded the council that he had previously handled this role as an assistant chief, prior to his elevation to the department’s top post. Long added that, in the future, he thinks the city’s police force will be better served if this job is assigned to a public information professional rather than a uniformed cop.
“The local media certainly continues to cover police matters,” he added. “I believe we can expand that with this person being on staff and really be transparent in the community.”
According to cost estimates that Long shared with the council, the three police services specialists will ultimately cost the city $119,163 a year while the annual expense of the public information specialist is expected to be somewhere in the vicinity of $62,874.
For the time being, however, Long told the council that he has enough revenue in his personnel budget to pay for all four of these new hires through the end of this fiscal year. Long added that he doesn’t expect residents to notice any drop off in service when he incorporates these civilians into the fold.
“We’re not reducing the services to the public,” he emphasized. “We’re just not using a uniformed officer.”