By Seth Daniel
Thousands of people on the west side of the city found what appeared to be parking tickets on their windshields over the weekend. Instead of getting a fine, residents got an earful.
The orange fliers were adorned with the Revere Police logo and were informational in nature, saying “City Violation” at the top and detailing recent police officer cuts.
The flier detailed one particular evening, April 24, when police staffing levels were allegedly below the minimum necessary to patrol the city.
“On 4-24-09, the police department could only provide the city with three patrol officers and one street supervisor,” the flier read. “This is a huge safety concern for police officers in revere [sic] as well as the citizens of Revere.”
The flier also explained there are supposed to be seven patrol officers and one street supervisor.
It also discussed Mayor Tom Ambrosino’s recent layoffs.
“I don’t know about you, but I am pretty sure four officers on the streets of revere [sic] trying to accommodate 60,000 residents does not provide a comforting feeling for someone who may need help in a hurry,” the flier read.
So far, no one is taking responsibility for putting out the fliers, but several have pointed to the Police Patrolmen’s Union for the distribution.
“We suspect it’s a police department employee, but I have no specific evidence to back that up,” said Capt. Michael Murphy.
A spokesman for the union, Attorney Lonnie Christopher, said he had no knowledge about the fliers or their distribution.
Mayor Tom Ambrosino said he wasn’t all that concerned about it.
“It was not sanctioned by the city,” said the mayor, “but we have something in this country called freedom of speech, so I don’t really have much concern about the effort.”
Councillor George Rotondo brought up the matter at Monday’s council meeting, saying he isn’t offended by it and hopes that it will let people know what a problem staffing has become.
The entire effort seems to be tied to the mayor’s decision to cut nine police officers last month, following a vote of the Patrolmen’s Union to reject a wage freeze package the mayor promoted.
The fire department also hasn’t accepted the wage freeze package and hasn’t had any cuts yet.
“The mayor could have cut elsewhere, and now we’re jeopardizing public safety for the community and putting officers in harm’s way,” said Rotondo.
As for the police staffing issue, Murphy said the flier wasn’t entirely accurate, although they were shorthanded on the night of April 24.
He said they had four officers on patrol and three in the station that night, mostly because officers called in sick.
Two officers who were scheduled to be laid off by the mayor were taking encumbered sick and vacation time that night before they expected to lose their jobs.
“The staffing is typically not that short, and though overtime is closely scrutinized now at the direction of the mayor, we are do everything we can to balance a safe staffing level…in a difficult financial environment,” he said.
He said they hired an overtime officer that night to pick up the slack.
He indicated the situation was certainly not the status quo, and that they have been frequently hiring overtime officers to balance out shifts.
“Where we typically approved an eight-hour overtime shift in the past, we’re trying now to pick it for the busiest periods,” he said.