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Saranac Lake police stops answering calls outside village

Village Board worried about costs, liability

Saranac Lake Police Chief Bruce Nason patrols Main Street during the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival.

Saranac Lake Police Chief Bruce Nason patrols Main Street during the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival. Photo by Andy Flynn.

Saranac Lake Village Board members Monday, May 29 directed the police department to stop answering calls outside village limits because of liability and cost concerns.

The New York State Police periodically asks Saranac Lake police officers to provide assistance on calls outside the village limits, including times when village police can respond to emergencies quicker than the troopers traveling from Ray Brook. But until an agreement with the neighboring towns of Harrietstown, St. Armand and North Elba can be reached with regard to reimbursing the village for any costs incurred during those calls and covering any liability, village police are no longer allowed to provide those services outside the village. Exceptions in cases of extreme danger and public safety are made on a case-by-case basis.

“There are circumstances where we have to make an exception for humane reasons. This is understood,” Mayor Clyde Rabideau said. “And I’ll be happy to work with our chief of police to do that, but I do recommend drawing that line in the sand.”

Saranac Lake Trustee Paul Van Cott explained that village attorney Charles Noth suggested Village Board members make this change.

“State law suggests that when the police are called out by the State Police to respond to an incident outside the village that the State Police do not cover our liability and our costs for our response to that incident,” said Van Cott, who is an attorney at the Adirondack Park Agency. “And so the potential exists that if our officer is in injured … the village could incur the costs related to any claim that individual brought for long-term disability and that the potential liability for the village would be significant.”

In addition, if civilians were injured during a call, the village is not covered for any potential lawsuits filed by those individuals, Van Cott said.

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