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Nashua looking for more police officer applicants

NASHUA – Amid a decline in applicants that is affecting departments across the nation, Nashua police are taking action to recruit new officers.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of full-time police officers per 1,000 residents dropped from 2.42 in 1997 to 2.17 in 2016. Nashua has been one of countless departments impacted, prompting them to look into changing the recruitment process.

“We’ve always done recruiting, but it has more so been a piece of different people’s jobs,” Lt. Brian Kenney, a member of the department’s Professions Standard Bureau, said. “With the way things are going now, it was obvious to us that we have to try something different, and dedicate more time and more resources just to get people in here.”

To address the issue, the department implemented the recruiting officer position on Sept. 3, which was assumed by former Special Investigations officer Kevin Pucillo, who has been with the department since 2010.

With his new responsibility, Pucillo said he hopes to take a fresh new approach to finding officers. He plans to use modern modes of communication, build relationships with prospective applicants, and stay at the forefront, all while being a step ahead of competing departments.

“I’m going to go out there and try and develop a better social media presence – using our Facebook and Instagram, going and reestablishing relationships with all the (criminal justice) programs in the area – tap into schools where we have alums,” Pucillo said.

“Also, looking at the military guys either coming back from deployments or just getting out of the military,” he added.

While Kenney and Pucillo said there is no single answer as to why members of the public are less interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement, there are many possible reasons.

“Is there hard data saying this is the reason we’re getting less applicants? Not that we know of. We speculate – there is a lot of different stuff,” Kenney said.

“The police are in the news every other day,” he added. “People are looking and saying, ‘Geez, I always wanted to be a policeman, but there’s guys getting fired and caught up in all these rallies.'”

Kenney referenced the May 1, 2016 May Day Parade in Seattle, during which police officers responded to Black Lives Matter protesters as an example.

Pucillo pointed to the availability of other jobs during good economic times as another possible pitfall causing fewer applicants.

“When (Kenney) and I got hired, we sought it out,” Pucillo said. “Now with the economy so good … people are not electing to do law enforcement as much as they used to.”

Along with the economy, Pucillo and Kenney said the political and social climate in the country has changed as well, referencing the years after 9/11 as a major reason the both of them joined law enforcement.

“When Kevin and I got on the job after 9/11, it was, ‘Show me where to sign up because I want to help – I want to be the one helping people after a tragic event,'” Kenney said.

Pucillo and Kenney said Nashua offers more opportunities for advancement than most departments in New Hampshire.

“We’re a bigger agency,” Pucillo said. “Because we’re a bigger agency, you have a lot more opportunities to advance.”

“We have a lot more specialty units,” he continued. “I think the only ones in new Hampshire that can compete with us are the New Hampshire State Police and Manchester.”

Some of those units the department has include a K-9 unit, Problem-Oriented Policing, a dive squad, a crime scene investigation unit and a bomb squad. They also have members of the department assigned to task forces that work with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI.

Those interested in joining the Nashua Police Department are asked to reach out to Pucillo either by phone, 603-594-3585, or email, puillok@nashuapd.com. For more information can visit the department’s website; http://nashuapd.com/index.php.

In another matter involving the Nashua Police Department, members of the Board of Aldermen this week declined to pass a contract that would have awarded civilian police department employees a 35% buyout for unused sick time.

“Now, if all city employees were given the 720 hours, it’s one-third of the annual pay roll. That’s a $60 million unfunded liability,” Mayor Jim Donchess said. “The employees in this civilian group, lawyers and some other people, entered the workforce with the expectation that they would be paid only 20%.”

Staff writer Adam Urquhart contributed to this report.