By Dave Rogers
---- — SALISBURY — Be it on patrol in a marked cruiser, on bike or on foot, Salisbury’s special officers fulfill a crucial role for this small Police Department of 14 full-time officers.
Anointed with the same authority and equipment as the town’s sworn-in police officers, new special officers are selected each year, with many eventually becoming full-time officers years later. In fact, all but the department’s police chief, Thomas Fowler, started as a special police officer.
The department is currently seeking candidates for next summer’s crop of special officers and will be selecting five men or women over the next several months.
Those interested are urged to submit an application with cover letter and resume by Dec. 15 at 11 a.m. Candidates must be at least 21 years old, possess a valid driver’s license, have a certificate from the Northeast Regional Police Institute and a clean criminal record. Also, candidates must possess a valid Class A license to carry firearms in Massachusetts.
“What we want to do is get the most qualified candidates,” Fowler said.
Fowler said his department is tweaking the way it recruits special officers, hoping to attract candidates from outside the community as well as those already familiar with the department.
Special police officers are paid, on-call positions, assigned to work primarily in the summer months. Fowler said those selected will go through a rigorous and comprehensive training program that includes spending 180 hours of ride time with a full-time officer, working as a dispatcher and working with the community to prevent and deter crime.
“There’s a lot of sacrifices. It’s made for people who want to be here for the right reasons,” veteran police officer Keith Forget said.
For those who complete the training comes the reward of being able to apply for civil service and become a full-time police officer with all the perks and pension benefits that goes with the unionized position.
Last year, the department had roughly 25 candidates, with five chosen for the program. Three have completed their requirements with two still in training.
In the 1990s, the department had more than 20 full-time officers patrolling its streets. But due to budget cuts, retirements and other factors, the number has dwindled to the point where the department is essentially responding to calls and little else, according to Fowler.
“I want to get to the point where we’re proactive and not just reacting to calls,” Fowler said.
Applications can be picked up at the Salisbury Police Department’s front lobby or by visiting salisburypolice.com.