ROCKVILLE – The City Council is considering adding a school resource police officer to its fiscal year 2018 operating budget.
Bob Rappoport, acting Rockville City Police Chief, said the department applied for a grant for an additional school resource officer for six years but was denied each time. This year, he’s requesting it be added to the city budget.
He said he wants two school resource officers to cover high schools, but one would be responsible for both Richard Montgomery and Rockville High Schools.
Rockville has 59 police officers altogether, according to the city reports.
“We’ve been trying to get a school resource officer between Department of Justice cops grants for several years now, and our application hasn’t been accepted, so I think it’s time that we just go ahead and try to get it through in the budget process,” Rappoport said.
He said he wants an already-trained officer with patrol experience to fill a second school resource officer position.
“If we bring on a certified officer from another agency who has one year or more of street experience, police patrol experience, we could bring them on at $61,925 (a year),” Rappoport said.
Rappoport said Rockville police are also coping with attrition-related vacancies.
“With attrition, people resigning, or anyone retiring, there is often a lag period – hiring, training, bringing them on board – and we need to make sure we can cut that lag time down as much as possible,” Rappoport said. “What we have to do is basically figure out how we might be able to do this in the shortest amount of time. I think once we have every position filled without lag time/vacancy periods, I think we could offer great services both in patrol and in our specialty programs.”
Mayor Bridget Donnell Newton said she is open to increasing the city police department by one officer.
Both Council member Mark Pierzchala and Acting City Manager Craig Simoneau said they are uncertain whether the city budget could withstand a raise in salaries for the police department or an increasing in their numbers.
“When we are considering a budget, no matter what it is, if it’s an ongoing expense, that means you’re obligating the future,” Pierzchala said.
Simoneau said the police will not receive special treatment regarding cost of living adjustments and pay step increases.
“In the end, police officers were treated the same as everybody else,” Simoneau said.
They agreed the public needs to understand that increasing payment or the number of officers wouldn’t be a one-time cost.
“Funding (an) ongoing cost you, have to make sure you have enough ongoing money to sustain it going forward,” Simoneau said, later adding, “Once you hire people, you have to be able to afford paying them year after year.”
City police last received raises in the fiscal year 2017 budget, but The Sentinel previously reported they last saw an increase in 2010.
Council member Pierzchala said he is open to hiring a new police officer for the (school resource position).
Pierzchala said the council faces a “tradeoff,” either increasing pay for police officers or expanding the police force.
Simoneau said the city has to make sure the COLA or pay step increases are sustainable before adding them to the budget. Simoneau said annual COLA or pay step increases may be sustainable, but his opinion doesn’t matter because the council won’t discuss police employment and pay until after incoming city manager Rob DiSpirito’s first day Jan. 3. Once employees reach the top of the pay step ladder, their salaries will remain constant.
Pierzchala said he is worried the city’s income is at risk after the results of the presidential and House and Senate elections.