BERLIN - The police department is reorganizing after two promotions and a retirement, putting added emphasis on drug enforcement.
Sgt. Mike Jobes was promoted to lieutenant at a Police Commission meeting Wednesday as part of that reorganization.
He was the second-highest scorer on the promotion test that preceded Lt. Drew Gallupe’s promotion last month. Gallupe was the highest scorer of four.
Lieutenants can be moved around to oversee whichever department they are told to, Police Chief John Klett said Friday, but for now Jobes will be overseeing the detective division.
The move allows the division, which will now be called the investigations division, to report directly to the deputy chief, with more direct oversight. The division was formerly a bureau that reported to the support services lieutenant.
“The support services lieutenant has a lot on his plate with everything else he has to worry about, so this takes (the division) out from under him and gets direct supervision from a command-level officer,” said Klett. “It’s a cleaner chain of command and more authority with the rank to go in and oversee (the division).”
Lt. James Gosselin currently oversees support service department, and Gallupe oversees operations, the two other divisions within the department.
Officer John Flynn was also promoted to sergeant on Wednesday, replacing Sgt. Todd Lentini, who is retiring.
Flynn will go on patrol duty, to replace Jobes, as Sgt. Ann-Marie Haas will be transferring from the detective bureau to the support services department, to take the place of Lentini. Haas’ sergeant position in the detective bureau is being replaced with the lieutenant position, which will be filled by Jobes.
“It’s the same number of people I just have to move them around the chessboard,” said Klett.
The effective dates of promotion are April 2, when Lentini will be retiring. Lentini will be receiving over $1 million in pension funds as part of the old plan.
He was one of four members of the department eligible for more than $1 million in retirement funds as part of the town’s old pension plan, which is underfunded, as discussed in previous Board of Finance meetings.
Detective Sean McMahon will be put full-time on narcotics enforcement. Police Commission Chairman Bob Peters made the request for more enforcement on drugs at a previous commission meeting this year.
At a previous meeting Klett said marijuana and cocaine were present in town. On Friday, he said the biggest increase is in the number of fentanyl and heroin overdoses, which is what the department will try to be getting a better handle on.
“For the most part, it’s not being sold here. It’s being bought (elsewhere) and brought here,” said Klett. “But we want to look into that a little bit more and see if anything is actually being trafficked here.”
Klett said his best information is that it’s not being sold in the town.
Drugs used to be bought and sold in the parking lots of bars, Klett said. But heroin and fentanyl, a chemical mixed with heroin to increase its effects while making it cheaper to use, are blind to socio-economic status.
“It’s not like it’s just one group of people that are using this,” said Klett. “It’s middle-class people, it’s people in their 50s, it’s people in their 20s. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It’s pretty much across the board.”
The department always has acted on any drug activity intelligence it receives, Klett said.
Last year, the department saved 14 people from overdosing on heroin, with the use of Narcan, but four people died, said Klett. He said the problem has grown over the years, as it has everywhere.
“There’s a problem out there,” said Klett. “We haven’t somebody to dedicate completely to it either. We act on it, we get it. We get intelligence we find things. We stop cars, we find drugs. Those things all lead to investigations, but we’re going to see if we can put a little more effort into it by dedicating a detective to it.”
Klett said being between two medium-sized cities, New Britain and Meriden, contributes to the presence, as both cities have had their problems with crime and people travel between them through Berlin, using the Berlin Turnpike and Chamberlain Highway.
Twenty or 30 years ago, a lot of drug activity was in the motels of the turnpike, but now police are finding the heroin and fentanyl deaths are spread out all over town, Klett said.
“No community is immune to it,” said Klett, who added that his department works closely with the Drug Enforcement Administration and neighboring police departments, sharing information. “We’re doing the best we can with it.”
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.