All members of a police department in a small Massachusetts town resigned on July 30, citing unsafe working conditions.
The entire Blandford Police Department, which comprises four members, announced their resignation via Facebook and advised all residents to continue to call 911 for emergencies, or call the Russell State Police Barracks for other police services.
“We shouldn’t have to fear our own equipment in the same manner that we fear criminals,” Sarnacki said, NBC news reported.
In a resignation letter seen by MassLive, Interim Chief Roberta Sarnacki and three officers said they regret to leave the town but “have no choice.”
In the letter, the team cited safety concerns regarding the department’s patrol cars, bulletproof vests, poor radio coverage and lack of manpower.
“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?” they said.
The officers also cited concerns with the bulletproof vests, which are all expired and do not fit the current staff well.
“We regret leaving the town without a town police force, but we have no choice given the situation we face,” they said in the letter. “We refuse to put our lives on the line anymore for a town that seemingly cares so little about us.”
Officials from Blandford and neighboring town Chester had been considering a merger of the two police departments before the entire Blandford department abruptly resigned.
Following the resignations, the chair of the Blandford’s board of selectmen, Cara Letendre, released a statement to 22News, saying:
“For the past two months, Interim Chief Sarnacki has done a fine job with our police officers and our police department. 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.”
Letendre added, “The Town of Blandford is continuing its already posted search for a new Police Chief.”
Letendre told NBC that in a Selectboard meeting on July 23, she had asked the officers to raise any concerns, but they did not, and “were only concerned about the police chief position being posted.”
Sarnacki’s interim police chief position was intended from June to July 30, pending a decision by the select board for the department as they considered several options for the department. Sarnacki believed the board wanted her to be replaced by the Chester police chief, Letendre told NBC.
“In a small town, it’s difficult to run a police force with the tax base we have,” Letendre told the television network. “We looked at three possibilities: Keeping the same police department, relying more on state police or looking at regionalizing.”
According to the resignation letter, the board of selectmen had, at the July 23 meeting, rejected a request to extend Sarnacki’s appointment. The resignation letter also said that the Board did not listen to Sarnacki or the three police officers to discuss the merger, MassLive reported.