Cambridge is in a crisis. Crime is up and the Police Department is down. The Cambridge Police Department is down to 32 officers compared to 52 in 2017.
The City Council has taken action by providing a salary increase and a $10,000 retention bonus, but officers still are leaving. Why?
To be frank, policing is tough in Cambridge. There are violent crimes, drugs and tough situations in the City.
• While the City gave officers raises, their pay is still under that of other jurisdictions.
• While the City gave officers a $10,000 retention bonus, it was for 3-year commitment, and the
officers had to pay taxes on it.
• While the City has increased benefits, the health insurance policy does not cover as much as it could.
• While the City offers a $5,000 signing bonus, Salisbury offers a $25,000 signing bonus.
In addition, the Police Department has next to no recruitment budget and needs to update its equipment. Itis easy to understand, why officers leave Cambridge and drive over the bridge to Easton and St. Michaels.
The City Council should be commended for providing the salary increases and bonuses. However, Cambridge has ended the last fiscal year and this year’s with budget surpluses, so money is available for a more comprehensive approach.
The City Council needs to rethink the whole Police Department budget now and be bold. We need to stop the exiting of officers and be able to choose from and keep the top candidates.
Now is the time to act, since we are at the start of the FY23 budget process. Cambridge needs to offer more than other communities.
We need to make the Cambridge Police a well-paid organization with career opportunities for these young officers. We need a recruitment budget, staffing, and career advancement opportunities to recruit and retain young people who are looking for a place to raise a family.
The Council needs to do a quick re-evaluation and then act now before we lose more officers.
Let’s be the best employer and see our community grow and be safe.
Chuck McFadden is the president of the Cambridge Association of Neighborhoods.