News, Police

Wanted in Swampscott: more police

SWAMPSCOTT — The town and Police Department are launching a new officer-hiring campaign in an effort to remedy significant staffing shortages.

Last month, MassCOP Local 417 President and Swampscott Police officer Kevin Reen sent an email to the Select Board calling for an “emergency summit” on the town’s police force personnel shortage. The letter accused Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald of “gross negligence” in his staffing of the department amid an eight-officer vacancy in the 32-officer department.

“Our police chief has made multiple recommendations of qualified police officer candidates to the town administrator. Yet Mr. Fitzgerald has taken no action on the recommendations and refused to appoint new officers. He has also repeatedly delayed promotions of Swampscott officers that are recommended by the chief – creating unnecessary anxiety within the department,” Reen wrote.

Last week, the union met with Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald, Human Resources Director Peter Kane, and Police Chief Ruben Quesada to discuss solutions to the staffing problem.

As a result of the meeting, the parties launched the “Be The Change” hiring campaign in partnership with Police Exam Solutions LLC. Advertising competitive pay, benefits, and potential sign-on bonuses, the campaign aims to recruit entry-level officers, academy graduates, and lateral hires from other departments.

In an interview Monday, Quesada said that although the campaign does not significantly alter the department’s current hiring process, it allocates additional resources toward all stages of the officer-hiring process — from recruitment to interviewing.

“We’re going to be aggressive in terms of getting the right people in the door and their backgrounds and interviews conducted within weeks, instead of waiting. It’s the same process, it’s just an aggressive timeline,” Quesada said.

Quesada said candidates will take their physical-fitness tests at Swampscott High School on Saturday and their interviews in early October with the hope of hiring new officers by the start of November. He added that he hopes to hire officers who have a passion for equitable and fair service and protection.

“Everything that the police profession has faced in the past three years has had a negative connotation to our profession, so I think in order to evolve and ensure that we’re treating people with fairness and equity, that’s where we need to see this from,” Quesada said.

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