Criminal Justice and Public Safety Day
Started at the Nashua Police Department
We spent the morning hearing about the impactful programs and community outreach by the Nashua Police Department. Lt. Dan Ostler, our LGN classmate, shared about the Mirror Project- a juvenile program focused on respect. The program is designed to build trust between middle school students and police officers.
Barbara Costa, Community Policing Coordinator, shared additional details of how she acts as a bridge between the community and the police department. She is very active in the community and partnering with organizations to bring awareness, training or services including Cyber Security, Internet Safety, Active Shooter Trainings, etc.
Kevin Rourke, Chief of Police, shared insight on the challenges the Covid 19 Pandemic has put on the department. They are in a hiring crisis just like every industry. Currently about 17 officers short of a full capacity. For the size of the city of Nashua and the volume of calls, actually down 29 officers in total. They have many constraints around the onboarding timeline- each officer candidate has to attend 14 weeks of police academy, 12 weeks of field training and 2 weeks of fire arm/defense tactics. It takes 6 months for a candidate to get on the street in patrol. The candidate pool is limited- they are currently testing on a monthly basis. The test is a physical and written component which very few candidates pass. We learned that Nashua is the highest paid agency in the state, but changes in the retirement structure have sparked officers to leave force entirely. In the last 5 years, 27 officers have retired and 31 have resigned- moving into private sector where the pay and benefits are better.
While we were at the Nashua Police Department we saw demonstrations of Drones, Bomb Unit and the Canine Unit. We met K9 Oakley, and learned about his daily life, training and the partnership he has with his officer. Each demonstration really showed the technical knowledge and skill within the Nashua Police Department.
During lunch we enjoyed Guest Speaker, Mark Hastbacka, Special Agent FBI. He shared many stories from his career with the FBI including the more recent capture of Ghislaine Maxwell in Bradford, New Hampshire.
Next, we visited the Lake Street Fire and Rescue Station where we met Chief Steve Buxton, he is also a graduate of LGN. He shared a bit about the 6 fire stations located throughout the city, including 177 fire fighters. Nashua is home to the second oldest fire house in New England. Fire and Rescue has a slightly different hiring structure from the police department, hiring only one time per year.
Every year the city has about 13,000 fire calls and 7,000 ambulance calls. Some of the challenges that currently face the department include social services calls. One example is an elderly resident who can’t get up and needs the lift assist. This puts a societal burden on public services, but the fire fighters want to help.
Chief Buxton shared wisdom on his leadership style as he has grown through is career. He emphasized the importance of leadership by example and shared the phrase “set the table years in advance” when describing his career. Meaning everything that you’re doing now is setting you up for future success- show up consistently in every way.
Our last stop was at the Hillsborough Superior Court where we learned about Drug Court from a panel including Judge Jacalyn Colburn. Drug Court includes 5 phases for individuals who are high risk/high need felony offenders. Drug Court isn’t intended for first time offenders. Jails and the prison system don’t rehabilitate people, drug court does. It is a much more successful program than traditional judicial system.
Drug court is individualized to the needs of the offender. It includes over 400 hours of substance misuse treatment, addressing the immediate needs of the person in addition to therapy and rehab services. Individuals can be in the program from 14 months to 4 years. Individuals would be disqualified for violent crimes or other offenses. The program runs on a system of incentives and sanctions. Drug Court works with community partners including Greater Nashua Mental Health (psychiatrists, psychologists, and 3 therapists), the Nashua Police Department, Revive Recovery, and Probation Officers. The relationships of individuals and the police evolves over time. The program builds trusts with individuals and the police officers and allows the officers to see the humanity in an offender.
The Nashua Drug Court currently has a success rate of 62%- the gold standard is 60%. The Nashua program was recently 1 of 10 selected to be a part of a National Mentor Program supporting other Drug Courts success across the country. Judge Colburn attributes their success to following the data and best practices in additional to the communicate partnerships in Greater Nashua.
It was a fascinating day to meet with the men and women in the city of Nashua, who have dedicated their lives to protect ours. We are very fortunate to have so many dedicated public servants in the city of Nashua and we were proud to be a part of Leadership Greater Nashua today.
Paula Taylor – Southern New Hampshire Health
Katie Parker – YMCA Greater Nashua