Public Safety Is a Mess in New Bedford [OPINION]
New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro should not get a new contract until the Mitchell Administration can come to terms with the rank-and-file officers first.
Cordeiro's three-year contract expires next month, and Mayor Jon Mitchell has already stated that he wants the chief to stick around. Mitchell says an agreement may not be finalized by the time the current pact expires in April, but he has made it clear that the matter is of utmost importance.
There is a problem: the rank and file don't like Chief Cordeiro. The union voted in 2019 to ask Mitchell to fire the chief. New Bedford Police Union President Hank Turgeon communicated the memberships' displeasure in a letter to Mitchell in December of that year, "From the date of his appointment to current, we have had to file 39 grievances and three unfair labor practices. In the past, when there were disagreements, both sides tried to resolve them. Filing a grievance was always the last resort," the letter states.
Relations between Cordeiro and the union have not improved one iota since that time.
Part of the problem is that Cordeiro has received cost-of-living increases on top of his contractually agreed-upon annual raises. The rank and file have been without a new contract since the old pact expired in June of 2018. Meanwhile, the department is being defunded. The downtown police station is closing, and 10 positions will go unfilled.
Things at the New Bedford Fire Department aren't much better. Union firefighters have been without a new contract since June of 2019. Mitchell ended the controversial practice of closing a firehouse a day on a rotating basis by permanently closing Station 11. The mayor also plans to decommission Engine 8 any day now. Manpower is so thin and apparatus so scarce that the city routinely calls upon the surrounding towns for mutual aid.
On top of that, Emergency Medical Services doesn't have enough ambulances to properly service the community. The EMS Director is actively lobbying for a fourth ambulance and people to staff it.
Public safety in New Bedford is a mess. Resolving this mess must be an immediate priority of the Mitchell Administration and the city council.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.