Shortage of police troubles Granville

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‘As far as shift coverage there’s at least 25 hours a week where nobody is covering the village. I’m working 75-hour weeks, another officer is working 75-hour weeks and Ernie’s getting in 40-50 hours a week so, you do the math,’ Granville Sgt. Josh Whitney said.

Inability to hire replacements ‘scary’

Worries about the dearth of full-time Granville Police Department officers were raised once again at the Granville Village Board meeting on Sept. 12.

Community member Charlie King inquired about the status of the department’s ongoing efforts to hire more full-time officers to provide constant coverage of the village, especially in the wake of recent fireworks explosions and issues with a dog near the Granville Little League complex.

These incidents have generated unrest.

“My primary concern for being here was inspired by these explosions in the middle of the night for the last three weekends rocking the village,” King said. “Prior to that, I was away the weekend where they (police) had the nonsense where the flower buckets and all of that stuff were trashed,” King said.

“We’re working our three full-time guys (Chief Ernest Bassett Jr., who was absent from the meeting on vacation, Sgt. Josh Whitney and officer T.J. Zovistoski) right to death,” King added, ‘”50, 60, 70 hours for those guys.

“Why don’t we have a full police department?

“Why don’t people want to come to this town and work?

“Where are you advertising these positions?”

Whitney, who was approved by the board following executive session to become a provisional sergeant with the department following a sergeant’s exam, spoke about the fireworks explosions at the Little League Complex and what is known so far.

Whitney said three suspects were caught on surveillance camera and that the investigation and potential arrests were still in the early stages.

Whitney also touched on the coverage firsthand in the village of Granville.

“As far as shift coverage there’s at least 25 hours a week where nobody is covering the village. I’m working 75-hour weeks, another officer is working 75-hour weeks and Ernie’s getting in 40-50 hours a week so, you do the math,” Whitney said.

King touched on how his business, Robert M. King Funeral Home, has been affected by the lack of coverage and depth.

“I’ve had a couple situations at my business. I’ve had two troopers and a State Police investigator tied up for two hours in the village in a situation where a village officer could have come in, talked to the coroner, and signed off. But we didn’t have a local guy,” King said.

“When I was talking to those SPs, they explained to me quite a bit about the situation. When Josh gets pooped at night, if it’s 1 or 2 a.m., he’s done. And that’s okay, we’ve got to have coverage.”

Mayor Paul Labas spoke to King and community members in attendance, explaining he wants nothing more than a fully staffed department but the prospects are “just not there.” Labas said he  was also “shaken to the core” by the fireworks that have been launched recently.

“Our budget for the police department is budgeted for five officers right now and if you or anybody else has suggestions on where we can go to get police officers, we just had a list that came out and you have the county that swept them up, Glens Falls, there’s many departments sweeping up,” Labas said.

“The state themselves are sweeping up officers as soon as they come out on a state certified list,” Labas said.  “Ernie has been canvassing, we have been canvassing, I have been asking, we have been looking.”

The mayor said the village is required to hire candidates off the state’s list of civil service test takers. However, Labas cited a downward trend in applicants to become police officers.

Labas said he even looked into the potential of receiving coverage from Vermont State Police, “but we can’t do that because they’re not New York State certified officers.”

“Coverage at night is a priority,” King said.

“When you’re running around soliciting folks to be elected into these positions, how many of you were making promises about our police department?” King asked. “People go to bed at night thinking that they’re safe and sound. ‘We have good coverage.’ We’ve got no one. This has been going on for a while having a rolling night officer the last two years.”

Labas shared his opinion that changes need to be made at the state level in terms of bail reform and not only is there a shortage of interested candidates to become police officers, but that there’s a shortage of workers in Granville and surrounding areas.

Telescope CEO Kathy Juckett chimed into the conversation and said she feels it’s not an issue of a shortage of workers, but that it’s a “shortage of people willing to work.”

“It’s pretty pathetic,” she said.

“I don’t really know what’s going on. Telescope’s hiring, Saint-Gobain is hiring, anywhere you go, Tractor Supply is hiring. These are good paying jobs, there’s no doubt about it. But we get a police officer that we want to go out there, protect and serve our community as you (King) say, and yeah, I agree with you, it’s scary,” Labas said.

“But to go and do that and even if they arrest the perpetrator and bring them to the judge, the judge’s hands are tied to what we can do. To me, this needs to be escalated to a state and higher level to a point where something has to break here. We can’t get reimbursement for fines. The people we’re dealing with, a lot of them are juveniles and we have no choice but to turn them over to their parents, when we turn them over to their parents the parents throw up their arms and they say ‘well we can’t do anything about it either.’ Then you go after the parents and issue them a summons where you tell them they need to go to court and it’s the same thing. They laugh at it and walk away.”

Whitney also said that the quality of certain candidates hasn’t been to the liking or preference of the Granville Police Department’s standards.

King’s wife, Mary, also spoke during public comment session raising her concern of State Police and Washington County Sheriff’s Office personnel not knowing their way around the village compared to a Granville officer, especially at night when the explosions have been occurring.

“Honestly, if we had 13 people up here that we had caught and arrested, I’m embarrassed and afraid to say this, but I really don’t think anything is going to happen to them,” Labas said. “That’s how bad the law and the justice system is getting in New York State.”

Juckett commented on the need to “make a lot of noise” with state representatives to ensure the changes needed according to the village.

“If nobody’s making a lot of noise about it, they’re not going to do anything about it. They’re probably not going to do anything about it anyway, but if we’re making a lot of noise about it I think we should at least be doing that,” Juckett said. “If we can get a group of people together and go down to talk to the people who need to be talked to, I can talk so I’ll be able to help however I can.”

Labas said the village will continue to do its part in trying to secure full-time officers as it awaits the results of September’s civil service examination.

“If I can find them, we will hire them. We are looking,” Labas said.