During Police Chief Russell Jenkins' first official day on the job last Thursday, he held three interviews, part of an effort to fill the department's budgeted force of 74.
Two officers are in the academy now and a dispatcher is also being trained. All three will activate next year, followed by the four recruits Jenkins is looking to place in the academy next month.
Those moves would bring the number of officers, including higher-ranked personnel, to full-force. Beyond that, Jenkins said he would eventually like to see the department with 80 officers or more. That is how many Braintree staffed in the past, sometimes with the help of federal resources, Jenkins said, and it would go a long way toward putting more police on the street and investigating serious crimes.
"I believe we're understaffed, without a doubt," Jenkins said in an interview.
But the chief also expressed optimism about his relationship with Mayor Joseph Sullivan, who must sign-off on all hiring, and the direction the town is taking with public safety.
"I want everyone to consider themselves a community officer," Jenkins said. "If you show people the value of doing it, they'll do it because it's a good thing to do."
More officers would mean bringing back additional motorcycle traffic patrols and having at least one more detective to focus on drug crimes, Jenkins said. He would also like to partner with private organizations to tap into real-time surveillance video to assist with police response.
Social media and the department's website are additional priorities for the new chief. Facebook and Twitter can be better used to inform residents about traffic problems, power outages and other problems, and the website should be a easy-to-use and attractive portal for those looking for information, Jenkins said.
"We want to communicate more with our community," he said.
In the coming weeks, Jenkins said he will discuss with Sullivan the additional hiring, including at the deputy chief level. Jenkins is currently performing many of the duties of his previous role along with his new one.
Jenkins was selected earlier this month by the mayor to serve as Braintree's ninth police chief. He was one candidate out of 22 – "It wasn't a gimme," he said. The Town Council confirmed his appointment last week and the next day he was sworn-in.
After joining the Braintree Police Department in 1983, Jenkins moved up the ranks from patrol officer to Sergeant, Patrol Lieutenant, Detective Lieutenant and then Deputy Chief in 2004. He was a Harvard University officer prior to being hired in Braintree.
Jenkins' family moved to Braintree when he was two and a half years old. While attending South Junior High, Jenkins said he decided he wanted to be a police officer because of his interest in the cop TV shows of the 1960s. He later earned a degree in criminal justice from Northeastern University.
During his years at Northeastern and just afterward, Jenkins held a job as a security officer at the South Shore Plaza. His co-ops at college involved living in Washington, DC for three months working for a law enforcement organization, and a stint with the Boston Police.
Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, Jenkins attended the FBI National Academy. It was a strange experience, in part, he said, because of how quiet the campus was so soon after the terrorist attacks. But the 10-week program was also valuable for his career.
"It was very rewarding," Jenkins said. "I enjoyed it very much."
As the year winds to a close, the chief will also deal with two holdover issues from Paul Frazier's last year leading the BPD.
Two patrol K9s – Kitt and Car – are ready to return to service and join active drug-sniffing dog Lucky, Jenkins said. The dogs underwent re-training after Frazier shut the patrol program down earlier this year in response to a number of problematic attacks. The department will put in place revised standards to head off similar issues in the future, he said.
Dave & Buster's 12-month security review is approaching, and Jenkins said he will sit down with several people involved and decide on a level of police details that satisfies everyone. Frazier severely reduced the number of details in June over the protest of several officers and a neighborhood association.