4 meetings scheduled to discuss law enforcement study in Orleans County

Photo by Tom Rivers: Brian Marsceill, a deputy with the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office, helps direct traffic during Beggar’s Night in Medina on Friday. Deputies and Medina police officers worked together to direct traffic and with crowd control during the event.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 November 2017 at 11:41 am

There will be four public meetings this month for community members to learn more about options for future law enforcement services that have been developed through the Law Enforcement Shared Services Study Project in Orleans County.

Consultants will share information on the existing law enforcement services in the county and several potential options for future service including potential service and fiscal impacts.

Community members are invited to any of the following four meetings. All four meetings will include the same information and format. Meeting participants are encouraged to bring a cell phone to participate in audience response during the meetings. All meetings will be video recorded and can be accessed from the project website after the event.

• Wednesday, November 8, 5:30 p.m.

Hoag Library Curtis Community Room

134 S Main St, Albion, NY 14411

Wednesday, November 8, 7:30 p.m.

Holley High School Auditorium

16848 Lynch Rd, Holley, NY 14470

• Wednesday, November 15, 5:30 p.m.

Medina High School Auditorium

2 Mustang Dr, Medina, NY 14103

Tuesday, November 21, 7 p.m.

Lyndonville High School Auditorium

25 Housel Ave, Lyndonville, NY 14098

The County of Orleans and Villages of Albion, Holley, Lyndonville and Medina are undertaking a thorough evaluation to determine the best option for providing the highest levels of policing service to our community.

They are working with consultants from the Center for Governmental Research. While law enforcement is an essential government service that touches the lives of every resident and visitor in Orleans County, the increased costs associated with these services and the demands for greater operating efficiencies are forcing a closer look at how service is provided.

CGR and its partner Highland Planning, LLC were given the objective to provide a restructured model resulting in cost‐effective consolidated police services across Orleans County including the jurisdictions of all four village stakeholders.

The following is taken directly from the report.

Department Profiles

There are six police departments that operate in Orleans County. In addition, the Orleans County District Attorney’s Office operates a Major Felony Crimes Task Force. The following profiles provide an overview of the characteristics of each of the agencies. The agencies each reflect the community they serve and their current operations, as they have developed over time.

Albion Police

The Albion Police Department patrols the Village of Albion with 12 full time officers, including a chief, a lieutenant and three sergeants. APD operates with a two person minimum staffing that is guaranteed as part of their union contract. In 2016-17, the total cost of the department to operate is about $1.4 million.

Holley Police

The Holley Police Department patrols the Village of Holley with 2 full time and 9 part time officers. Since October 2015, the HPD has been led by the Albion Police Chief under an inter-municipal agreement. HPD generally has a single officer on duty. Its employees are not represented by a union. In 2016-17, the full estimated cost to operate the department is about $362,000.

Lyndonville Police

The Lyndonville Police Department is a part time force that relies on a single officer who works about 20 hours per week, mostly in the afternoon and early evening. The current model has been in place for about the last 5 years. The total cost of the department the total cost of the department is about $27,000 per year

Medina Police

The Medina Police Department patrols the Village of Medina with 11 full time officers including a chief, a lieutenant, a sergeant and 8 patrolmen. There is also a part time officer and a full time police clerk. MPD operates with a two person minimum staffing that is guaranteed by the collective bargaining agreement between the Village and the police union. For 2016-17, the total estimated cost of operating the department is $1.33 million.

Orleans County Sheriff’s Office

The Orleans County Sheriff’s Office is headed by an elected sheriff. The responsibilities of the office include law enforcement (road patrol), emergency communications, security for the county court, animal control, civil bureau and operating a jail. The road patrol division has 24 sworn deputies assigned to patrol, investigations and the court house. The total expense for the department is about $3.5 million although there is offsetting revenue of about $550,000.

Orleans County Major Felony Crime Task Force

The Orleans County Major Felony Crime Task Force is an independent department under the supervision of the Orleans County District Attorney. The MFCTF staff is full time and is comprised of a Supervising Investigator who oversees two (2) additional Investigators. The expense for the department is about $301,000 per year, although the task force often receives funds from forfeitures.

New York State Police

The New York State Police operates out of a barracks in Albion to serve Orleans County. The contingent assigned to the county is part of Troop A that covers eight counties in western New York (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming). A cadre of 10 troopers and a supervising sergeant is assigned specifically to Orleans County. There are also two NYSP investigators from the Bureau of Criminal Investigations that work out of the barracks. The goal for the NYSP in Orleans County is to have one trooper on duty between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and two troopers from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. There is no specific local cost for the NYSP services.

Key Findings

• The police agencies in Orleans County already cooperate on several key issues including using the closest car for serious events, a cooperative SWAT team, some shared training initiatives, and most visibly, a central dispatch center with common record keeping.

• The crime rate is low compared to similar-sized counties in New York and neighboring counties.

• The village police agencies provide a very quick response to calls (under 5 minutes 90 percent of the time) while agencies serving the broader geography in the county have a slower response time.

• There are relatively few calls for service for all agencies between midnight and 8 a.m. Peak call volume occurs between 4 p.m. and midnight depending on the community. Saturdays are the busiest day of the week for requests for service.

• The law enforcement workforce is relatively new to their positions with about half the officers being hired since 2012 and two of the agency leaders starting in 2016.

• Anecdotally, a significant portion of the turnover in village agencies is officers leaving for better paying positions in law enforcement. Very few deputies leave the OCSO for another law enforcement agency.

• The pay scale for law enforcement in the county is lower than for nearby counties with a greater demand for police services such as Erie and Monroe.

• There are substantial differences between the contracts of the three departments with collective bargaining units, especially in rates of pay and hours of work.

• There is strong community support for the local village police departments, even with the relatively high cost compared to areas outside the villages.

• Police protection is expensive, partly because it is needed at all hours, everyday of the week. The total cost in the county is about $6.8 million. However, police departments in peaceful places like Orleans County have few active calls for service in early morning hours. Further cooperation across the county can reduce total staffing, both at the officer and the command levels. The minimum staffing requirements and command needs require taxpayers to spend more than is necessary.

• There is an open mind among elected officials for the possibility for changes in the police service, although there is requirement that the level of service remain similar to what it is today.

• As currently operated, The Major Felony Crimes Task Force is able to provide an experienced investigative resource to the community at a relatively lower cost than using sworn officers operating inside another agency.

• The current political environment in the county contributes to mistrust between organizations and individuals. This may inhibit successful change to law enforcement operations.

Next Steps

As part of the project, CGR’s team will develop a series of potential options for law enforcement services for Orleans County. These options will be presented to the steering committee in a draft form and then refined based on input from the committee. The options, once vetted by the committee, will be presented to community at several different meetings to ascertain their opinions. A final report will be prepared for the steering committee that includes options for redesign of law enforcement in the county.

For more information including the Baseline Report, click here.

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