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Researching police protection

Last week, the board held a workshop to discuss whether or not to re-start a town police force or find another avenue to protect residents. Warren County Sheriff Larry Cleveland was on hand with facts about police coverage for the town. We want as much information as we can get before we make a decision, said Warrensburg Supervisor Kevin Geraghty. Were looking at the possibility of using peace officers or police, or the sheriffs department. The issue in Warrensburg is young people roaming the streets at night, vandalism and other harassment, which is why the town originally enacted a curfew and hired a police force. After the members of the force resigned, Warren County Sheriffs Department patrols have stepped up their visibility in town. I want to make sure the town is protected and the people can walk around, Geraghty said. But my question again, is where are the parents of these kids? Cleveland brought the number of calls received in June 2006 and January of 2007 from Warrensburg. There were 81 calls for aid in June and 78 in January, ranging from vehicle accidents to harassment and miscellaneous problems. In June, when Warrensburg had its own police department, 11 of those calls were handled by Warrensburg police, 12 by state police and 58 by Warren County Sheriffs Department. Cleveland said that peace officers have almost as much authority as trained police officers, although they have very little training in comparison. They can do almost anything the police do, Cleveland said. Peace officers only require one week of training, and its up to the municipality to what other training they get. If Warrensburg decides to use peace officers, I would say there is one concrete rule: use retired police. Warrensburg has four options. The town could start a new police force of its own, which would cost about $48,000 per year, although police officers fall under civil service protection which could be costly. If a police officer is hurt, the town would have to pay benefits forever, Cleveland said. Theres a lot more liability and insurance involved. The town could opt for two or three peace officers which would have much less liability or contract with Warren County Sheriffs Department for more coverage. The other option is to do nothing at all and rely on current coverage by the sheriffs department and State Police. The sheriffs department offers different levels of coverage, from one officer covering the town 24/7 which costs between $12,000 and $15,000 per month to full-time coverage for weekends only, or pay by the 12-hour shift or even by the hour. Paying for extra coverage does not change the coverage already provided by the sheriffs department. Wed like to get something done by April 1 and put this behind us, Geraghty said. We just want to make an informed decision. I applaud them for doing their research, Cleveland said. Kudos to the town board for gaining knowledge before making a decision.

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