SPENCER – Selectmen are considering a policy that would allow the police department to form a constables’ division, whose members would direct traffic at road construction sites.
Police Chief Michael Befford presented the policy to the board for a first reading, explaining that the proposal was motivated by the large number of construction projects and a shortage of officers to direct traffic.
“Several times this past summer and fall we had to either … turn contractors down, or allow contractors to work without a detail officer. I was not a fan of that just because of the risk (to contractors and drivers),” Befford said.
Befford said he’d likely hire former police officers for the positions. The constables would be required to take, at their own expense, flagger classes, he said. The policy would limit the number of hours that retired officers could work.
Jared Grigg suggested reaching out to the fire department to see if firefighters might be interested in working as constables, as well. Befford said he has spoken with Fire Chief Robert Parsons about just that.
The constables would be third in line for the so-called road jobs. Full-time officers would have first dibs and auxiliary officers would follow. Constables would be third, Befford explained.
Recently, Befford has had to tell construction companies he could not provide detail officers for their projects and that, he said, is something he doesn’t like to do.
In response to a query from Selectman Ralph Hicks, Befford clarified that the constables wouldn’t have police powers. State law does allow them to direct traffic on a public road, Befford explained, but their duties wouldn’t reach beyond that.
“If they see a crime in front of them, they have to pick up their radio and call us,” he said.
The division would be small and constables would be paid the $60 per hour rate for a minimum of four hours, just as regular officers are. That fee is paid by the contractors.
“I’m not going to go and hire 20 (constables),” he said.
Board members will review the proposed policy and vote on it at a future meeting.