Mayor Paul Labas and police chief Ernie Bassett Jr. agreed at a Granville Village Board meeting on Jan. 3 that, as Labas put it, “there are no officers out there for us to get our hands on” to replenish the depleted police staff.
Asked by NYVT Media for an update on the police department’s efforts to fill vacancies, both Labas and Bassett said there are not many options to choose from.
“We are doing our best as a police department right now,” Labas said. “We’re trying to hire officers to the best we can do. I’m going to be very blunt and factual about this. There’s no officers out there for us to get our hands on. I do plan on contacting the county to see when a civil service test could open up.”
Bassett followed Labas by saying the mayor “hit the nail on the head” with his statement, as the civil service list has dwindled from 21 candidates to “maybe five.” He added that the potential candidates’ living locations are taken into consideration, with some of the candidates living far from Granville.
“We’re still talking to people and still trying to make this happen,” Bassett said. “I can say, in all of the years that I’ve worked, I have never seen such a dilemma in the sense of a low amount of people out there to potentially hire. It’s very tough times for everyone and it’s not just our agency. If you check this county, Warren County, Saratoga County, there’s quite a dilemma everywhere.”
“Our calls are being answered, our police department is still functioning and it’s still doing their job,” Labas said. We’ve had that filled with part-timers, we have two full-timers. The incidents where there’s need, they’ve been responded to. I just want to assure people of that.”
Labas said he believes the police officer shortage statewide is a staggering issue that the village is dealing with to the best of its ability at the local level.
A follow-up question by NYVT Media asked: “Of the calls to law enforcement, if 100% is the cake, how would you divide those up between the (Washington County) Sheriff’s Office, State Police and the Granville police department responding to calls in the village?”
Bassett said he was unaware of any State Police or Washington County Sheriff’s Office direct response instead of Granville police within the village’s jurisdiction, adding that both agencies have appeared for backup purposes.
“We work together pretty well, but I’m not aware of any outside sources coming in and answering our calls,” Bassett said.
When asked if there was a mandatory response for State Police and the Sheriff’s Office to assist, Bassett said that there could be. Board member Dean Hyatt said he had no issue with that.
“What’s the problem with that? We’re paying for them anyway. At the end of the day you’re paying for the Sheriff’s and you’re paying for the State Police, so if they have to come in and help us, so be it,” Hyatt said. “If something goes down, the police are going to respond.”
Labas followed Hyatt’s remarks by stressing that calls are still being attended to in the village despite the two-month-long understaffed period.
“Yes we are trying to go out there and hire more officers, but drive around this town and look around at how many ‘help wanted’ signs there are. They’re at Telescope, they’re at Saint-Gobain, they’re at Tractor Supply, they’re at Stewart’s. Every single place that you go to and those are jobs that people would usually rather take rather than being a police officer,” Labas said.
“I blame a lot of this to do on police reform laws that have happened in this state of New York. The last administration that was in here really threw a wrench in the works and it made a lot of good, hard-working police officers not want to even come in and do this job anymore. And I don’t blame ‘em. You can get kicked in the teeth just so many times.
“We feel as a board that it’s not an issue of the board or anybody in our police department working, it’s the state and the laws that are out there as a whole. Anytime you turn on the TV, there’s a shortage of police officers. Nobody wants to work the job. If it’s not there, it’s not there and you can’t pull them out of thin air.”