Trumansburg Police Chief Joe Nelson jumped in with both feet since his swearing-in ceremony in August, familiarizing himself with the community and his staff. He has been analyzing the department and giving recommendations on how it will run best to the Village Board. Most notably he has recommended a plan to move to a full-time staff of two officers. Mayor Rordan Hart and the Village Board agree with Nelson that this is a solid step in the right direction for the Village, and plan to hire two full-time officers to begin in January.
“For the last several years, it has come up from time to time when staffing gets tight, and the need to backfill comes up,” said Hart. “So over the years, it seemed like we would maintain a healthy part-time staffing for a year or two, and then we would lose anywhere from two to a half dozen officers. The former Chief always preferred to juggle and find and recruit new cadets here to work part-time. Although this created a revolving door of future full-time officers for other police departments, it was still nice because we got the pick of the litter of young, eager kids who wanted to be police officers.”
Chief Nelson, however, prefers to skip the juggling act in favor of staffing the department with long-term, full-time officers, with part-time officers being used to fill in the gaps in coverage. There are several reasons for this preference other than the time and energy it takes to maintain a healthy police department with only part-time officers, including community building, better results for those who find themselves interacting within the police system, and the overall health and safety of the community.
Employing only part-time officers presents a lack of efficiency in investigations. While there are few incidents in the village that require an investigation, they do happen, and the police department owes it to a victim to be swift in resolving a case. Part-time officers do not always work day-to-day, or week-to-week, which delays resolution. Full-time, trained officers give “better outcomes and results” reports Nelson, who went on to say that currently, “the quality of work [victims] are receiving is just not there.” It is still important to Nelson to aid in the training and advancement of cadets, which has been an institution in Trumansburg for decades. “We will still work with cadets, we will still work with part-timers, and have a program to move people forward in law enforcement. We can still do that with full-time people giving the quality of service the people of the village deserve.”
Hiring full-time officers creates stability in the community, which Nelson noted when he was interviewed in August. “It will be the full-timers responsibility to know when something is out of place. To know what is ordinary or out of ordinary in order to head off potential crime.” While Trumansburg is a low-crime area, it is not immune to crime. Having consistent and proactive interactions with the public helps head off crime, which is increasing in other areas of the region. Hart notes, “There are many things that the Chief wants to work on in the community to keep maintaining the relatively low crime rate, which will really work a lot better once we have dedicated full-time people.”Building rapport and familiarity with the community is one important goal that can be better accomplished with full-time staff. “Interacting with our community, being in our businesses, and letting them know we are here if they need anything is what I stress over sitting in the patrol car,” Nelson said. “We are only a few miles long, and there are things [our officers] can do to show their presence, interact, and ask questions.”
Adding full-time officers will enhance this effort, also giving time for participation in things such as school events, teaching classes like driver’s education, which allows for greater interaction with kids; a vital connection in keeping crime rates low.
One important point noted by Keith Hannon, Village Trustee and Police Commissioner, is that employing full-time officers helps to ensure not only the health and safety of the community but also of the officers themselves. “When you have a bunch of part-timers that work a full shift at a different department, and then they come to Trumansburg for another eight hours, I think that’s a lot to ask of someone. I think avoiding that in the future will be better for them, the village, and the people in the village,” he said.
As far as the budget is concerned, village residents should expect to see that line item go up, but only minimally, and at a cost far less expensive to comparable municipalities in the county. With the small investment comes a better quality of law enforcement, with better community engagement, and most importantly, maintaining low crime rates and the health and safety of the village overall. For more information about the Village of Trumansburg, or to direct a question to Mayor Hart, visit the website, trumansburg-ny.gov.
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