Shelton chief says firings not impacting patrols or budget, but police union is worried

Photo of Brian Gioiele
Shelton Police Department's Chief Shawn Sequeira.

Shelton Police Department's Chief Shawn Sequeira.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — With recent firings, the Shelton Police Department has lost nearly 10 percent of its force in the past six weeks. While the union has said it is worried patrol officers are being stretched too thin, city officials say the public shouldn’t see any difference in safety.

Neither patrol coverage nor overtime budgets will suffer from the personnel changes, according to the police chief. The number of officers on patrol is set by contract, he said, and so far overtime to fill the roster has not been out of line with other years.

By the end of the fiscal year, he said, the city should see nearly $500,000 in savings from the salaries and benefits from those no longer working for the department.

“Nothing really has changed,” Chief Shawn Sequeira said. “The real impact is less money spent by the city.”

Sequeira has fired five officers over the past six weeks after two separate internal affairs investigations. The department began the year with 52 officers and now, with several recent hires and the firings, has 46 — 29 of them assigned to patrol.

Sequeira told the Board of Aldermen Public Health and Safety Committee last week that while the department’s personnel have taken a hit, the force has endured no drop in protection to the community.

“The department has the same amount of people on patrol on each shift as it always has,” Sequeira said. “The minimum count for patrol is contractual and can’t change unless the contract changes. Patrol is covered. ... No worries for the public.”

Both Sequeira and Mayor Mark Lauretti said last week there was “no urgency” to hiring replacements for those fired. Patrol officers are being assigned overtime shifts to make sure the city is covered, they said, a practice other police departments use when necessary.

Police Lt. Robert Kozlowsky said “shift minimums have not changed” in the wake of the terminations. Days and evenings have five officers and one supervisor, with four officers and one supervisor on the midnight shift.

But Mike Lewis, a representative of the police officer’s union, said the remaining patrol officers are being overworked.

“Officers are at the point where they can’t always find volunteers, so officers are being ordered into work,” Lewis said. “That is never a good scenario. Working too many hours can result in poor judgment because of exhaustion.”

Lewis said the chief should take officers in non-patrol duties and reassign them temporarily into patrol.

Sequeira did not comment on Lewis’s suggestion to reassign other officers. He also said he has received no complaints from patrol officers assigned overtime.

Sequeira told the health and safety committee that the overtime pay for July 2020 was $69,877.78, some $18,500 more than the same time last year. The chief said the increase was a direct result of contractually mandated 2 percent annual increases in pay, which also covers OT.

August overtime numbers were not immediately available.

Summer is often a high overtime season, Sequeira said, because police officers are used for non-patrol work including traffic duty while roads are being repaired or trees are removed.

The concern, both he and Lauretti said, was whether the overtime budget was overspent by the end of the year. Both officials said they did not see overtime related to the firings having an impact on the year’s budget line.

“There will be no real impact on the OT budget,” Sequeira said.