NEW BEDFORD — The New Bedford Police Union has issued a response in regards to the news that staffing changes will soon take place at Station 3 in the city’s North End.

On Friday, August 27, officers were informed in an email from Police Chief Paul Oliveira that effective at 4 p.m. on Thursday, September 2, there would no longer be desk officers at Station 3, located at 781 Ashley Boulevard. The news came following word of the impending closing of the downtown Station 1, which already moved out desk officers, although a New Bedford Police spokesman told WBSM that Station 3 would not be closing.

In a statement issued to WBSM News, Police Union President Hank Turgeon said the elimination of uniformed desk officers at Station 1 and Station 3 has the union “extremely concerned of the numerous negative effects this will have on the safety of the citizens of New Bedford and its police officers.”

Turgeon said desk officers “collectively handle thousands of complaints/calls/walk-ins over the course of a year,” and that distributing those calls to marked cruisers will create “a strain on the current patrol force, pulling them away from neighborhoods.”

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In response to a request from WBSM News about the changes at Station 3, Lt. Scott Carola stated that “officers assigned to the North End will continue to deploy out of the station as they always have. The station will be staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with patrol officers and supervisors.” But he also noted that desk officers would be eliminated from the station, and that “any citizen arriving at the station can activate a call button at the front door, which will immediately establish a video and audio connection with our communications division.”

Turgeon said that call button is located “on the top of several stairs at the Station 3 building, not handicapped accessible.” He also said Mayor Jon Mitchell is continuing the “defund the police” with this latest move.

“The mayor is giving the perception that the officers removed from the desk positions will now be rolled into street patrols, increasing the number of officers on patrol, when in reality, the minimum staffing levels for patrol in the city will be decreased by two police officers on each shift,” Turgeon said. “The lowering of the minimum is another way to continue to defund the police. We have not seen our minimum numbers this low since the 1970s. This not only creates an unsafe working environment for our officers but also jeopardizes public safety.”

In addition to the impending closing of the downtown station, the New Bedford Police Department has also closed the South End substation as well, rolling operations into the new state-of-the-art public safety center on Brock Avenue. The plan is to eventually do the same in the North End as well.

“The union welcomes the mayor's proposal for another state-of-the-art public safety building in the North End, but that is just a concept right now for years down the road,” Turgeon said.

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