Northampton police officers working mandatory overtime due to understaffing

Police officers from the Northampton Police Department are working extremely long hours. We were told that, on a normal day, they could work anywhere from a 12
Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 4:43 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 6, 2023 at 6:25 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Police officers from the Northampton Police Department are working extremely long hours. We were told that, on a normal day, they could work anywhere from a 12 to 16 hour shift. The department told us that this is causing many problems, not just for the officers, but the entire community.

The answer is very simple. Officials said that the police department is understaffed, and that is causing every officer here to be overworked.

The Northampton police officers are working shift, after shift, after shift. They are doing this due to mandatory overtime that is barely covering the work that needs to be done. Most affected are the people lower in the seniority list, meaning the newests recruits.

Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper told Western Mass News that officers are exhausted and that the working conditions are far from ideal.

“They sometimes work very long shifts,” she said. “Sometimes planned, they know they’re going to be held and work a 16-hours shift. Sometimes unplanned, they come in for 8 hours, and then, they get held for an additional 8 that they didn’t expect. So, you can imagine that’s very difficult. They can be very overtired; they have to cancel personal and family plans in their lives and it is stressful over time.”

Staffing issues have increased year after year for the Northampton Police Department. In 2015, they received 150 job applications from those wanting to join the force. Every year after that, the numbers dropped, and Chief Kasper said that this year, they have only gotten around 30 applications.

Northampton’s Mayor, Gina-Louis Sciarra, included more funding for the Northampton Police Department in her 2024 fiscal year budget proposal and said, in part:

“I am grateful that the City Council approved my FY2024 Budget, including a strategy working towards reducing the many hours of shift overtime in the Northampton Police Department we are experiencing with an average shortage of 21.25% of our patrol officers a month.”

While some cities around western Massachusetts are giving money when a newly hired officer joins the force, Chief Kasper is trying a new initiative. She asked the city council to allow student officers to join the Northampton Police Department, even before they begin training at the academy.

Something that caused some confusion, even in the city council, as some thought she was referring to teenagers becoming police officers before they have the required age to join the force.

“A student officer is a civilian, non-sworn, unarmed person who is a student,” Chief Kasper explained. “They are going to the police academy, and then they are going to come out and do field training, then they are going to be police officers. Student officers are how all of our police officers start their careers. I started my career as a student officer in the academy. That’s how we began our careers. So, we basically asked for permission to put extra additional people into the academy when we can see vacant positions coming.”

Chief Kasper also told us that the officers at Northampton Police feel supported and like they have more job stability after the city council voted to approve Mayor Sciarra’s 2024 budget proposal.