The entire police department in the small town of Blandford, Massachusetts, resigned Monday over what they say are unsafe working conditions.
WSHM reported that the four-person department, made up of interim Chief Roberta Sarnacki, and officers Chris Anciello, Gage Terlik, and Krysten Scapin, cited unsafe working conditions for the sudden resignation.
According to the department, poor levels of staffing, wages, mechanical issues with police cars, ill-fitting bulletproof vests and poor radio communication systems are among concerns, WFXT reported.
“For some time we have been dealing with unsafe working conditions. Policing is inherently dangerous, however it has been made much (more) so by our town's administration.
“To summarize, the town is asking officers to patrol in cars that have no a/c (air conditioning), no snow tires, and no four-wheel drive...They are asking us to do this with no radio coverage, no real backup if needed, and all for $14 or $15 an hour. Would you put your lives on the line in these conditions?
“The officers said they were fed up with inadequate equipment, including old and out-dated hand-me-down bulletproof vests, and officers often having no means to call for help. The letter also refers to the recent police shooting in Falmouth and others across the country.
“We regret leaving the town without a town police force, but we have no choice given the situation we face. We refuse to put our lives on the line anymore for a town that seemingly cares so little about us.”
“For the past two months Interim Chief Sarnacki has done a fine job with our police officers and our police department,” the Blandford Select Board, which is a board of elected officials, said in a statement Monday. “It is unfortunate that she led this officer walk out as she would have been considered as one of our candidates for Acting Chief position as we pursue the future opportunities with our police force. We have had multiple public meetings with our police force and have offered them the opportunity to engage and provide their opinions for the direction of the force.
“We have reached out to our neighboring communities to insure the safety and security of our citizens. Until such time residents should continue as normal to dial 911 in the event of any emergency and local or state assets will be dispatched to assist them. The Town of Blandford is continuing its already posted search for a new Police Chief.”
“We were definitely all surprised,” Select Board Chair Cara Letendre told WFXT. “I'm really disappointed and I think that the way it was done was very unprofessional.”
WFXT reported that the mass resignation won’t have a major impact because every officer, including the chief, worked part time and most 911 calls were already being routed through Massachusetts State Police.
On Wednesday, in response to news about the resignation, Scapin said she was with Blandford for more than a year and came to the police department with three years of experience.
“We have witnessed the multiple opinions about our actions, but it is important that everybody knows that we just want what is best for the town and our safety,” Scapin said in a statement. “We were not able to perform our fullest duty with malfunctioning and unreliable vehicles, expired vests, radios with no signal. But most importantly, we could not perform at our best without the town’s support by our side.”
In the meantime, WSHM reported, members of the Hampden County Sheriff's Department and Massachusetts State Police will be patrolling Blandford. Residents are encouraged to continue to call 911 for emergencies and the Massachusetts State Police for other police services.
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