CLINTON — Police Chief Craig Johnson doesn’t know what else he can do after voters rejected the proposed police department budget Tuesday.

“All I can say is we’re simply doing our job,” Johnson said. “So far this year we’ve handled about 3,000 calls. It would be interesting to see how many who voted us down have called for our help.”

Last year, the Clinton police received 3,165 calls from the public.

Even with the rejection from Clinton voters, Johnson said the department will continue to provide as much coverage as it can.

“It’s business as usual, we’re going to do our job,” he said. “We’re discouraged and feel underappreciated, but we have an obligation to do our job.”

Voters rejected the budget of $197,954 for the upcoming fiscal year. According to the town charter, the department will operate under last year’s budget of $198,044.

Voters came close to eliminating the police department after twice rejecting its budget in 2009. A third proposal was accepted during the Town Meeting in June 2010, 595-355, but if it had failed, the department would have been dissolved.

The department’s budget was approved each year since then, until it was rejected 267-192 this week.
One official thinks traffic citations from the department in recent months contributed to the rejection.

“I figured it would be voted down, they’ve been overzealous on giving out tickets,” said Mike Walton. “Some people who may have voted for the department probably didn’t.”

Walton is the chairman of Clinton’s planning board, and advocated in 2010 for the town’s police department.

Dave Broctor, a Clinton resident who voted against the police budget on Tuesday, said he’s had enough.

“We tried to get rid of it before, but they’re still here,” he said.

According to the annual town report, 67 traffic violations were issued in 2012, compared to 41 in 2010 and 2011 combined.

There were 128 arrests reported in 2012, compared to 96 and 73 in the previous two years.
There were also 18 drug violations reported in 2012, compared to just two each in the previous two years.

Reports of burglaries were up from 39 in 2011 to 84 in 2012.

Calls for service also rose. In 2011 there were 1,991 and in 2010 there were 2,636. The town has a population of 3,486 according to the 2010 Census.

Residents’ complaints about the police department, however, are minimal, according to Town Manager Warren Hatch. He said he has received only a couple.

He believes that any problems residents have with the police department could be addressed in a different way than rejecting its budget.

“If they come in so we can hear one-on-one what their issues are, we can address it that way,” Hatch said.

As for frivolous stops by the police, Hatch said he can’t tell the department what to pull people over for.

“If it’s a violation of law, it’s a violation. Nobody likes to be stopped,” he said. “You can’t tell an officer to not stop a vehicle for certain things. You can’t pick and choose.”

Hatch cited a routine traffic stop in January that led to the largest drug arrest in the town’s recent memory.

“The department could have missed that stop if they overlooked it,” Hatch said.

Brian R. Stackpole, 23, was arrested on a felony drug charge when a relatively new police officer pulled him over on Main Street and discovered 98 grams of uncut cocaine in the car. Stackpole was indicted by a grand jury earlier this month on the charge.

Hatch said the board of selectmen will decide what the next step to take is at tonight’s selectmen meeting. It’s likely that selectmen will approve a public hearing about the department, with the potential of another vote to follow, he said.

Jesse Scardina — 861-9239
[email protected]

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