Public Safety has always been a top priority of my administration. I continue to work together with Chief of Police Michael Lombardo on all matters related to public safety as I always have. Trumbull remains a safe community thanks to the work of our police department, led by an excellent Chief of Police.
One of the challenges Chief Lombardo and I have been working on is the recent reports of fighting at the Trumbull Mall. I was, of course, concerned and disappointed with the events that took place last Saturday evening. Three teenage girls, ages 13, 14, and 15, were arrested for breach of peace, and the 15-year-old was also charged with assaulting a police officer. Our Trumbull police officers found crowds of unarmed youths who continued to come back into the mall even after being expelled, and called in mutual aid from area police departments and the State Police in order to restore order. Calling for mutual aid is a typical part of emergency response, both in Trumbull and across Connecticut, and is used regularly to supplement our staffing when matters require staffing beyond our normal levels. Our department is often called to provide mutual aid in neighboring towns for the same reason.
Fights at the mall are not new. Unfortunately, this has been happening for decades, not only at the Trumbull Mall but also at other area malls. However, that is no excuse for these events to continue. The mall is private property. My office and the police have always worked with the mall owners to ensure the safety of everyone who works and shops there. The mall was recently sold, and we met immediately with the new owners. One of our first orders of business was to discuss mall security and we will continue to do so. It is in everyone’s best interest that events like the one this past Saturday night do not happen. That starts with prevention and adequate security. It is incumbent on the new owners to ensure everyone’s safety. They certainly intend to do that by providing their own security and of course the Town will continue to do what we have always done at the mall and that is to provide the necessary officers to also ensure public safety. We will meet again with Trumbull Mall leadership to discuss policies and procedures they can implement to stop these situations from occurring.
Trumbull residents can be assured that the safety of our community is not in jeopardy and will not be in the future. Like many police departments across the country, the Trumbull Police Department currently has staff shortages. Recruitment and retention of officers is a local, state, and national challenge. Trumbull currently has 68 active police officers on our force, as well as an additional four (4) officers recently hired who are in training. Funds are in the Town’s operating budget to bring our force up to full staffing levels at 82 officers. That money has been funded every year since I was elected in 2017. We continue to focus on hiring new officers and have had multiple rounds of hiring opportunities.
The issue of attracting people to join municipal police departments is a nationwide concern. This fact was again reported in a front-page article of the CT Post on January 16, 2023. There are shortages in many departments in Connecticut and throughout the country. We are addressing this issue here in Trumbull in different ways. We have put into place a hiring bonus of $20,000 to encourage people to join our department and we continue to discuss other programs and incentives to mitigate this issue.
A related issue that impacts recruitment and retention is the police pension plan. My administration did not take the police pension away from officers hired after July 1, 2014. That was done by my predecessor, Tim Herbst. Nonetheless, my administration is committed to addressing the issue of recruitment and retention and have done so through the following actions: 1)We carved out the existing police pension plan from collective bargaining so that future administrations cannot touch it; 2)We increased the town match in the existing defined contribution plan for the police to 10%; and 3) We are conducting an analysis to determine the feasibility of returning the pension to police officers hired after July 1, 2014. Please remember that all police officers hired before July 1, 2014, remain covered under the original police pension.
Once again, we have an outstanding Trumbull Police Department led by Chief Michael Lombardo. I am grateful for their dedication and commitment to ensuring the safety of all our residents and look forward to working collaboratively with all parties to ensure that Trumbull remains a safe place to live and work.