Saturday January 19, 2013

NEAL P. GOSWAMI

BENNINGTON -- The Select Board will review funding for police operations following the widespread arrest of suspected drug dealers on Wednesday and may consider boosting the police budget if state funds are not available, according to Chairman Joseph L. Krawczyk Jr.

The Select Board has expressed a concern about public safety issues in Bennington, and police efforts to combat them. Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette told the board at a recent Select Board meeting, before Wednesday's operation, that he would discuss the situation with them soon and brief them on the department's efforts and needs.

"I know we've had a concern now for a year or 18 months with the information on the gangs that are coming into town and the drugs," Krawczyk said Friday. "Yes, we're going to address it again because I'm going to bring it up. He's done exactly what we've asked him to do to increase surveillance and get after this."

Funded by state

"Operation County Strike," which targeted 63 suspects on Wednesday, was carried out by the Vermont Drug Task Force Mobile Enforcement Team. The specialized unit focuses on combating drugs, guns, gangs and violent crime. The team's work was funded this year by the state, but it's unclear whether funding will continue in the next fiscal year.

"I want to see how much of that they used, and does he feel his officers are properly trained?" Krawczyk said. "I'm going to ask the chief to come in, in terms of the budget process, and talk to us about it."

The board has cut some funding in other parts of the proposed 2014 fiscal year, Krawczyk said. Still, more town funding for police may not be needed if state funds are available, he said.

The department's needs

Doucette said he plans to brief the Select Board on his department's involvement in the operation, and discuss the department's needs.

"I just want to make sure that we have funds to keep going the way we have been going. Some of that is going to depend on whether grant funding is available from the state of Vermont," he said. "If we don't continue to receive funding from the state I am going to ask that we can get funds to keep moving forward."

Doucette said the board has been supportive and has provided the resources he needs to ensure public safety.

"They fully see what's going on. They know that they have to maintain our programs," he said.