If I could sit in the living room of every Rutland Town home, I would tell you how valuable, essential and critical our Rutland Town Police Department is. While we sat together, I’d have the opportunity to share with you and your family all of the great work these public servants do each day for our special community. But since that isn’t a reality, I’m asking all of you to read and understand why the Rutland Town Select Board and Police Department are asking you to support our proposed budget that features the creation of one additional full-time officer.

Town Hall has heard loud and clear from the residents of Rutland Town that you are looking for more policing in the form of traffic enforcement, neighborhood patrols and seven-day-a-week coverage, with night shifts possible. We want to see our police department offer all of these benefits, plus more! But, with our current staffing level, we cannot. Help us by supporting this budget and we can make those reasonable requests happen.

Our department has the privilege of serving our most precious assets and faculty at the Rutland Town School. Officer Sly’s presence is felt each day, greeting our students as they arrive, all while keeping a watchful eye out for their safety.

Chief Ed Dumas serves in partnership with the Child First Advocacy Center investigating and arresting our society’s most dangerous individuals who wish to harm and target the most vulnerable. Through these two partnerships, we take in just less than $100,000 in funding for our annual police budget, which in turn, saves the municipal budget significantly.

Capt. Ted Washburn, who manages the day-to-day emergency and non-emergency operations, handles everything from active violence to frauds, burglaries, motor vehicle accidents and beyond. He is supported by part-time officer Jim Gamble. In calendar year 2018, our department responded to a staggering 1,035 calls, which Washburn handled the brunt. Some of these cases, especially frauds, can take months to investigate. With so few hands to assist, proactive policing, response times and community visibility suffers.

With this volume of calls, our residents, businesses and visitors deserve more access and better coverage throughout the town. But with the current dynamic and structure of our department, we cannot provide additional services without adding one more full-time fully certified police officer. We are at a point where if we as a town are going to have a police department, we need to support the fine work these officers are doing and get them the help that we see is critically needed.

Several years ago, the Vermont State Police made it known to communities of 3,000 people or more that we needed to move in the direction of creating and policing our own communities. Due to constrictions within the State Police, whether it be financial or personnel reasons, VSP made it clear that they were not going to be the “go-to” police agency for every response that was needed in Rutland Town. Our board has heard from many in our community that they were not satisfied with the shortage of coverage that is felt throughout Rutland Town at times. By adding this additional officer to our budget, the will of the people is being heard.

The members of the Rutland Town Select Board have spent months studying, debating and passionately defending what we believe is needed and necessary moving forward to support the fine work of our police agency. Through these conversations and testimony from so many, we are asking for your support.

Rutland Town is a crossroads for hotels, retail, automotive dealerships, manufacturing and more. All of these great benefits of living in Rutland Town need better police coverage. With the addition of one more officer, we can grant the wishes of our citizens and employers. Offering 21st-century policing that makes sense is now up to all of us to support.

We are accomplishing so much with our respected department now. It’s time to lock arms together as a community and show the support our department and town deserves. If we didn’t feel this to be such an urgent and necessary need, we simply wouldn’t be asking you to support this measure. We understand that operating a police department requires responsible budgeting, and we have the utmost respect for your hard-earned dollars.

Join us March 5 by sending a clear message to our community by voting “yes” to our latest police budget.

Joshua C. Terenzini is chairman of the Rutland Town Select Board.

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