A small town in western Massachusetts is without a police force today after all four members resigned Monday night, citing poor equipment and unsafe working conditions.
Interim Police Chief Roberta Sarnacki and three other officers submitted their resignation in a letter to Blandford, Massachusetts Monday night, saying they were leaving their positions within the department, effectively immediately.
According to a post on the Blandford Police Department's Facebook page, residents can call 911 for all police, fire or medical emergencies as people normally would. The Russell State Police Barracks is available for residents who might need any other kind of police services.
Sarnacki says her officers have to use cruisers that don't work, wear ill-fitting bulletproof vests, and work for little pay - between $14 and $15 per hour.
Another example of the department's working conditions include the fact that its best car - a 2010 Crown Victoria purchased from the Otis Police Department - overheats at times, has no air conditioning and the seat is stuck in the reclined position.
Another challenge officers say, is the fact that department radios don't work in most parts of the town. Officers are unable to call for back-up and must use cell phones to call dispatch or closer authorities like the Massachusetts State Police.
The former officers say they regret leaving the town without any police protection, but they feel that they have no choice and have to think of their own safety.
In a statement issued by Blandford city officials, the interim police chief was criticized for leading a walkout of the department with Selectboard Chair Cara Letendre saying, "It is unfortunate that she led this officer walk out as she would have been considered as one of our candidates for Acting Chief position as we pursue the future opportunities with our police force."
Photo: Blandford Police Department Facebook Page