June 7, 2014

Essex County almost nixes school officers

ELIZABETHTOWN — A plan to put sheriff’s deputies back in Essex County schools made it past county lawmakers by just five weighted votes.

Sheriff Richard Cutting had asked the County Board of Supervisors for approval to apply for a federal Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant that would pay 75 percent of the salaries and benefits of four new school resource officers.

It squeaked by at last month’s Ways and Means session, 10-8, then made it by the full board at its recent regular meeting by a weighted-vote tally of 1,463 to 1,458.

Many lawmakers observed that the last school officer program, from 1999 to 2003, ended with then-Sheriff Henry Hommes simply moving the resource officers to the main Sheriff’s Department, instead of laying them off, as the board had intended when it accepted the COPS funding.

“There are people on your staff now who were part of the original (1999) grant,” Supervisor Thomas Scozzafava (R-Moriah) told the sheriff.

“It’s not affordable for this county at this time, period.”


The new grant would end after three years, and the county would have to commit to paying the full amount for the deputies for at least the fourth year.

In addition, each school officer would have an $18,000 local share per year, representing the county’s 25 percent match.

Cutting promised that this time the school officers wouldn’t be retained when the program ended.

“As far as my position goes, after the four years, it is up to the schools (to pay their costs), unless this board decides to keep them on,” he said.

In light of what they perceive as a heavy presence of road patrols by the Sheriff’s Department in the county, some supervisors have asked if Cutting could simply re-task those officers to the schools.

“Would you be able with your current staff to fill some of this obligation?” Supervisor Charles Harrington (R-Crown Point) wanted to know.

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