Call for 21 Ogdensburg police officers draws some city council support
BY JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week
OGDENSBURG — A plea from Police Sgt. Matthew Erwin to authorize 21 officers at the City Police department found some support during a budget discussion Monday, Nov. 22.
While City Councilors Nichole Kennedy, Dan Skamperle and Michael Powers have sought to bolster police numbers for some time, Deputy Mayor John Rishe on Monday said he supports including 20 officers in the 2022 budget.That’s two more than what is included in the current preliminary budget.
The support followed remarks made by Erwin, who was speaking on behalf of the supervisors union.
Erwin said that he commended the city council for the hard work they have done in preparing a budget that helps stabilize the city’s finances.
He said city officials had asked the department to remove their emotions and opinions from the budget discussions and look at the numbers and facts.
Erwin said he was doing just that. He noted that the department was being cut from 29 officers just a few years ago down to 18 in the proposed budget.
He said that the city police department is carrying a much larger load per officer than neighboring forces.
He said that the city’s 18 officers are handling a workload that is comparable to what 24 officers would do in other agencies and that the compensation is less.
He said that he understands the need to cut taxes and to be fiscally responsible, but said he believed bringing the force to 21 officers would strike the right balance.
Erwin noted that even at 21 officers, time off requests would likely continue to be denied at a high rate and added that the decision for this budget would likely impact the city into 2023 as new recruits would need to be trained.
Councilor Dan Skamperle said he’d like to see the city bring the number of officers up to 24, but said 21 were needed at a minimum.
Kennedy said she would defer to Chief Mark Kearns who called for 21 officers at the previous budget workshop, noting that he was the professional.
Rishe said he believed bringing sworn officers up to 20 in the budget would be a good compromise.
Skamperle said he believed 21 was already a compromise.
Although no action was taken to modify the budget Monday, the issue will likely come before the council again before the final budget is adopted.