PLATTSBURGH — The City of Plattsburgh is hoping 10 new hires for the City Police Department will help fill out its ranks after the department has faced four retirements this year and with the expectation for more in 2022.
The approval of new officers comes at a time when retirements and injuries has led Plattsburgh City Police to mandate overtime for its officers to continue operating at required staffing levels per shift.
"Due to our low staffing levels, and the need to continue providing efficient, effective policing supporting the needs of the 19-plus thousand residents of the City of Plattsburgh deserve, our agency has been required to have mandatory OT coverage," Lt. Jarrod Trombley, who has been running the department since August as its highest-ranking senior member, said Tuesday.
The overtime requirements started in late summer and early fall this year, Trombley said.
The department currently has 37 uniformed officers. With the anticipated retirements next year and the 10 incoming officers, the police department is expecting to have 41 members in 2022. Ideally, Trombley said, the department could use 47.
“To properly staff the shifts, to address the needs of community," Trombley said, "we aren’t attempting to over-staff but maintain efficiency, effectiveness, proactiveness and community engagements."
Seven of the 10 new officers were already accounted for in the city’s 2021 budget. The Common Council approved the three additional hires in mid-October, which Mayor Chris Rosenquest said would be paid for through the existing budget.
“Adding the seven was good,” Rosenquest said, “but we had enough room in our budget, in the payroll budget, to add three additional ones if those three were approved by council, which the council did subsequently approve.”
Rosenquest is hoping the new hires is a step toward stabilizing the department as officers retire and leave down the line.
“Even though we’re adding 10 now, we’re going to lose another five next year,” he said. “The goal for the city is to create a pipeline of succession, which certainly hasn’t been the mindset for a long time. So now we’re really just trying to play catch up.”
“It’s also for the city to keep in mind a lot of these officers are retirement-eligible in 20 years,” Rosenquest continued. “So you got 10 officers going in now, and in 20 years’ time, there could be potentially a vacuum of 10 officers that are leaving the force.”
The 10 officers anticipated to join the city’s ranks next year are currently in the Zone 9 Training Academy, where Trombley said they are learning policies, law and police procedures. The academy lasts about five months, Trombley said. Afterward, cadets who get through spend three to six months in field training.
“We want them to have a good grasp before more expected retirements happens this coming spring,” Trombley said.
This year's academy, which hosts cadets from tri-county agencies in Plattsburgh, is also the largest in 18 years with 24, Trombley said, signaling a wider need in different departments across Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties.
Trombley said he’s looking forward to the 10 new officers, saying they can help refresh the department.
"What we’re also trying to do is create a new, positive and engaging police culture and move from the reactive enforcement policing was. This is a new way of policing,” he said. “That’s the motive here, more positive engagements. If we could utilize these 10 new recruits, and train and teach them to be a better, engaging officer, then I think it’s a win in the long run for this community.”
“I think that we can take this opportunity for what it is and really engage the public in a way that policing needs to, and we are absolutely embracing it,” Trombley said.
Of the 10 city police cadets in the academy, two are women and one is a person of color, Rosenquest said. If he gets through the academy, the cadet would be the city’s first police officer of color.
The mayor said he thinks a more diverse police department can better serve the Plattsburgh community.
“Certainly, we want diversity,” he said. “We do get different perspectives, different mindsets, different experiences, and bringing that to the job itself, that really helps us be a better servant and provide a better service to the community.”
“It goes back to this milestone of diversity we’ve been able to create starting at the beginning of this year with this council being the most diverse council [in Plattsburgh’s history.},” Rosenquest continued, noting the three women and two men of color who serve on the council.
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