There’s a new way of patrolling the streets at the Southington Police Department these days and officials are hopeful it will only serve to increase the accountability among officers and enhance community interaction.
Over the past couple months, Southington patrol officers have been adjusting to new “beats,” spending time assigned to patrol the same neighborhoods in town and get to know the community they are serving said Southington Police Chief Jack Daly.
The goal of the Community Policing Program is simple, he said: expand services to make sure the department is able to grow both in proactive and reactive response.
“We’ve always been community oriented. In this town, we are fortunate to have a very active department and we are large enough but still have the type of town where we can do things that most large departments can’t,” Daly said. “This is a way to continue to expand what we are able to do.”
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The concept for the new program, which has officers in the same neighborhood consistently and encourages them to talk directly with residents, first began to take shape when the town entered into a new contract with the Southington Police Union earlier this year.
As part of the agreement, the department established new master sergeant positions that Steve Pestillo, chairman of the Southington Board of Police Commissioners, said were designed to provide a more direct chain of command and increase personal responsibility.
Those positions were filled last month when the department officially promoted Michael Gallo, Jay Suski, Stephen Elliott and Michael Kahn. The department also promoted officers Jason Watson and Keith Egan to the role of sergeant.
“It’s all about efficiency,” Pestillo said. “With the new program and these positions, everyone is now reporting to one shift commander. It allows us to take the other officers and place them in sustained zones that will enhance the overall coverage.”
“We have been encouraging our officers to get to know the people in their zones and hope it will increase accountability. If there are problems in those areas, they are problems the officers own.”
The department has also expanded to include service training for all employees. Last month, officers and other emergency response officials came together and in October, they will hold a community forum with STEPS.
Daly said all the changes are just part of the department’s commitment to really enhance what already exists in Southington.
“Our department has always been involved in community policing initiatives and now this is just incorporating different ways of approaching it. It’s a team effort and we are serving the community, so they are a part of the team as well,” he said.
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