The Suffield Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to reduce the number of officers by one Wednesday night, bringing the maximum number of officers allowed in the department to 19.
The reduction was halved from what the selectmen at their last meeting on Dec. 9, a drop from 20 officers to 18. Suffield Police Chief Mike Manzi and Captain Craig Huntley were in attendance at the meeting, along with members of the town's police commission.
The relatively short discussion on the matter seemed to reflect the compromise in the overall reduction of officers. The selectmen’s interest in saving the town money was met with Manzi’s concern for the welfare of his officers and of the town. The one-officer reduction will save the town $52,777 during the coming fiscal year, help limit the necessary use of overtime by the department, not require any current officers to lose their jobs and allow the police to complete a hiring process that began during the summer.
Manzi issued a letter dated Dec. 16 to the selectmen outlining his position on the staffing reduction, which included the following as its closing paragraph.
“…I can assure you that with  years of police experience and having the availability to understand the demands of our organization, I would still ask to maintain our existing staffing level,” the letter read. “As representatives of the citizens of Suffield, should you still elect to reduce our manpower then I would strongly suggest only one officer at this time. …In doing so, we can still meet the expectations of providing professional police services without compromising the safety of the community we serve.”
The department hasn’t often operated with a full compliment of available officers due to factors including military obligations, injury and worker’s compensation leave and others. The department is only two officers shy of its newly reduced compliment and the hiring process for a new officer is only weeks away from completion.