I have joined the Manchester Government Academy for the last few weeks of the class. My husband and I took it a few years ago and if you live or work in town I highly recommend it. The way the class works is that on Thursday nights you travel to a town owned building to find out how the department is run. You might be at the fire department one week and then the water plant or the senior center or the library the next week.
This past Thursday the meeting was at the Police Department. The Manchester Police Department, according to Sergeant Ryan Shea, is one of the top departments in the state of Connecticut. To become a police officer in Manchester one must be 21 years old, have 60 college credits or 2 years of active military service, pass a polygraph test, a written test, an oral test, a physical fitness test and a mental health exam. Once hired the candidate trains for 22 weeks at a police academy in Meriden, Hartford, Bridgeport or New Haven followed by 17 weeks of field training.
The top crime problem in Manchester is larceny especially by Buckland Hills Mall and includes shop lifting and motor vehicle thefts. When there is a major incident the department has a chaplain for support and mutual aid agreements with police departments in surrounding towns. Also, the chaplain is available for support after any stressful situation an officer encounters.
Officer Jason Moss spoke to the class about the specialized traffic unit. Traffic violations are the #1 complaint received by all police departments. The violations include DUI, speeding, distracted driving and accidents. Some members of the MPD are part of a regional team for serious and fatal accidents. Using drones, mathematical formulas, accident scene photos, interviews with witnesses, vehicle damage, sobriety tests and knowledge of the weather and road conditions the officers are able to reconstruct with good accuracy what happened. The report can take up to 6 months to complete. Another part of the traffic unit is a motor unit which provides escorts and security during special events using motorcycles and ATVs.
The class was led on a tour of the police department. The dispatch room and the training room were quit impressive. The most senior dispatcher showed us the equipment used and how officers are directed to calls and tracked during a shift. Each car on patrol shows up on a screen at all times. The training room allowed for comprehensive and adaptive training using interactive video to allow officers to practice de-escalation of stressful situations verbally or if needed with minimal and appropriate use of force..
I also learned that there is a Citizen’s Police Academy which is a ten week program that runs every fall. It has already begun for this year. Maybe next year?
A meeting at Whiton Library in the north end of Manchester was held last night. The meeting’s purpose was to seek input from the community on the hiring of a new police chief for Manchester. After a week of feeling as if the seething, hyper-partisan fury in national politics might be insurmountable it was refreshing to sit around a table with a small group of citizens, politicians and town officials sharing concerns and ideas about local issues. The group, consisting of four politicians and about a dozen residents was thoughtful, considerate and focused. Board of Directors members in attendance were Yolando Castillo, Pamela Floyd-Cranford along with Mayor Jay Moran and Deputy Mayor Margaret Hackett. Special thanks to Scott Shanley, General Manager and DeDe Moore, Director of Administrative Services for organizing and Whiton Library staff for hosting.
These three questions were posed to the group:
What are the top three law enforcement challenges in Manchester?
What should the new Chief’s highest priority be?
What traits are best in a candidate for Chief of Police?
Traffic safety, car vandalism and visibility of cops were top concerns. The issues facing pedestrians like texting drivers and people ignoring ‘no right turn on red’ signs were on the minds of most attendees. Also, there are some issues with poorly lit streets and people double-parking and blocking fire lanes and traffic at grocery stores.
The group thought that the highest priority for the new chief should be to get to know Manchester and it’s people and to demonstrate benevolent leadership to the rank and file. There are currently 110 officers in Manchester with funding for 117. The field training for officers is intense and stringent and creates one of the best forces around. The town is a diverse community with students coming into our schools speaking 69 languages besides English. There was consensus that the new chief should gain public trust by being visible to residents and instill in the department the best qualities of community policing.
Traits desirable in a police chief include calmness, good judgement and passion for the town of Manchester. Also, excellent communication skills, with both the community and the police officers under his or her command, are mandatory. Additionally, the ability to speak another language, and if not a member of a minority group him or herself, then be open and sensitive to issues facing people of color. The chief should have qualities above and beyond the norm.
The search continues. More meetings are scheduled for community input tomorrow night at the Senior Center and Thursday night at the Eastside Community Resource Center. Both meetings begin at 7:00 pm.
Abdullah Al-Mubeen has lived in Manchester for most of his young life. He was born in New York City and also travelled to Bangladesh and lived there for a short time. He is the youngest of five children. He has attended school at Washington, Verplank, Bennet and Illing. He went to Manchester High School for a short time but currently attends Sport & Medical Sciences Academy (SMSA) which is a magnet school in Hartford. I met Abdullah at the Silk City Cafe on Main St. for this interview.
Abdullah is a senior at SMSA and plans to enroll at Manchester Community College next year to study engineering. His favorite course at SMSA was a marketing course taught by Ms. Anne Nguyen. He credits this course with helping him overcome his shyness and fear of public speaking. Another favorite teacher has been Ms. Cindy Petrillo who was his math teacher. He thought she was an excellent teacher and he liked the way she explained math concepts and assigned creative projects to help the students learn.
For his senior capstone project Abdullah would like to raise money for diabetes research. His family has been impacted by the disease. He has contacted the Diabetes Foundation and with their assistance is considering holding a walk-a-thon in Hartford.
Abdullah loves living in Manchester. It’s quiet here and is a good place to grow up. He hangs out at the mall or the movie theater. In elementary and middle school he played at the playground at Verplank School. He enjoys skateboarding which he learned last year. He likes to skate board around his neighborhood and near Cheney Tech.
The T-Mobile on Main St hired Abdullah in July. He loves this job but not the servers which crash sometimes. He likes talking to people and explaining the cell phone plans. He likes technology and picks things up easy.
He is also interested in Japan and has always wanted to visit.
Sunday we walked down to Cosmic Omelet for breakfast. One of the great things about Manchester is that many neighborhoods have a local shopping area with restaurants and stores that are an easy walk from home. We live near the shopping area that has Cosmic Omelet, Westown Pharmacy, Bamba Restaurant and a few others. Cosmic Omelet is known for it’s creative and delicious breakfast choices and otherworldly decor. It frequently is named the “Best Breakfast” in the Hartford Magazine poll. This year it came in #2.