Councilman questions need for Shandaken police

By Jay Braman Jr.
Shandaken Councilman Vincent Bernstein wants to take a long hard look at the town’s police department.

At the June town board meeting Monday night Bernstein made a long statement of complaint about the department and said he wants to discuss whether or not it is needed. “Should we have a full-time police department,” he said, “or can it be handled by part timers?”

Bernstein, who was a police officer for 30 years before retiring, noted salaries for four full- time officers being over $50,000 and seven part time officers each making over $20 per hour plus a $22,000 salary for the officer in charge, James McGrath. “Taxpayers pay over $300,000 for these salaries,” he said.

Numbers don’t add up
Prompting his complaint is the fact that, since January, only four arrests have been made, but officers have logged over 8,000 miles of patrol.

“That’s like driving to Denver (Colorado), making one arrest and driving back,” he said.
Bernstein was also miffed last month when an officer that was present at the May town board meeting was asked to read the monthly police report but refused, saying that he was not the department’s information officer. Bernstein said he felt that was an insult to the town board and to those in the audience.

This month there were no police officers at the meeting, so Bernstein said that he would read the report since he is the town board liaison to that department.

He then complained about that as well, saying that even though he is the liaison, he often gets news about the department from either the town supervisor or other board members and it makes him feel like “an idiot” since he should be the one delivering the news. “I’ve had dang little information that goes through me,” he said.

Says it’s working
Councilman Jack Jordan defended the police department, saying that perhaps the reason there are so few arrests is because the town has such a strong police presence it has less crime than other areas.
Board member Doris Bartlett also showed support for the police. She noted that, despite few arrests, the police have handled 184 calls since the beginning of the year.
But Bernstein said that most of those were what are called “security checks” that amount to going to someone’s home and rattling the door to make sure it is locked.
The 2013 budget for the police department is $323,835.