Sheriff’s sergeant joins Whitehall police

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Whitehall Police Department

Following the resignation of a full-time officer, the Whitehall Village Board unanimously approved the hiring of a former member of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office as a full-time officer.

Sgt. Dave Buxton will keep his rank as sergeant when he begins work on Aug. 9 for Whitehall for an hourly wage of $26.98. Buxton is coming with 20 years of longevity.

The board agreed to pay half of Buxton’s phone bill monthly for an expense of $30 per month as he will be using that as a primary line of communication and is serving as a supervisor.

Buxton and Officer Bryan Greco are currently the only full-time police officers in Whitehall after the resignation and transfer of Officer Damian Duffy to South Glens Falls Police Department. Duffy has agreed to work part-time in Whitehall for the time being.

Efforts are underway to add a third full-time officer.

“I think the real reasoning is being by yourself all the time and having a ton of cases you have to try and follow up on, and it’s basically just you,” Granville and Whitehall chief Ernest Bassett Jr. said to the board. “Greco’s in the same shoes, we’re actually working him way too much.”

Bassett said in positive news, he is expecting the results of testing by recruits in the academy in Troy, as well as a few officers with years of experience that he has his eyes on.

For example, if Whitehall were to send two officers to the academy for training, the village would have to spend $50,000 on each recruit for the training. It’s a possibility, but experienced officers are preferred.

“The list will be out any time now, hopefully sooner than later, and we do have a candidate (Alexander Gilmore) that works at both agencies, Granville and Whitehall. If he scores high enough, he falls under the parameters that we have already established, the 10-mile rule, he’s 9.8 miles and lives on DeKalb Road, so I’d be recommending that person as soon as we can too so that we’re up to three (full-time officers),” Bassett said.

“And he would be starting out as a fresh patrolman… He has to score high enough. He’s already passed the physical/agility aspect and he’s always done pretty well when it comes to testing, so I’m hoping he’s in the top three so we don’t have to work further than that.”

Starting pay for a patrolman is $14.55 an hour before certification. After certification, the wage increases to $20.99 an hour.

The probation period for a new patrol officer is up to two years. This could limit recruits who are unwilling to move inside the 10-mile radius but are qualified for the job.

“We could have the best candidate and he lives in Glens Falls, and we can’t hire him,” Bassett said.

Bassett is aiming to get back on track in terms of staffing. The lack of depth has created holes in the working schedule creating the loss of the DWI shift and requesting Granville officers to work extra shifts in Whitehall.

“We haven’t worked any DWI shifts since I’ve been chief here because we’ve been unable to fill the schedule with one person, and in September, that will be the start of the seventh year,” Bassett said. “That’s seven years of doing single-person patrol. That’s about as difficult as it gets in police times in the way they are.”

The chief of both agencies said officers become “buried” with work and responsibilities when they are by themselves, creating a dangerous scenario in the case of an emergency when they have to respond.

“You don’t get the best of what we can provide if we had more officers on the road,” Bassett said. “We’re giving away money that we get for free with the DWI funds because we don’t have the personnel.”

Due to the empty slots in the schedule, Bassett had to rework his contract and be approved by the board to work more hours. He is currently contracted to work 16 hours a week at Whitehall.

The board approved to pay Bassett time-and-a-half for working more than 16 hours a week to fill the schedule. He currently gets paid $30.57 per hour and paid time-and-a-half when he exceeds 30 hours a week in Granville.

“One of the reasons why I wanted a sergeant and somebody else is somewhere down the road I have to start thinking about making a move myself away from the whole thing,” Bassett said. “I’m in year 33… What I need to know is what rate if I work more than 16, because I work 50 right now and I know that I can’t work many more hours because that’s almost every day of the week as it is. But if I don’t do that, what am I going to do? And even if I do that, I can’t guarantee everybody here that every single shift will be filled 100% of the time.”

Mayor Julie Eagan asked Bassett what happened to the “giant list of part-timers.”

“The giant list is starting to dwindle and I can tell you that two that were taking hours every week told me that they will not be taking hours in July and August for us. They work full-time down there,” Bassett said. “That’s where we get into trouble when you have part-time employees because what’s my recourse? To let them go? That’s not going to help us in the long haul… We try to get someone to work for us two shifts a month.”

A comment from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office or from Sheriff Jeffrey Murphy on the matter was unavailable by press time.