St. Lawrence County sheriff tries to ease burden of hiring issues in department
BY JEFF CHUDZINSKI
North Country This Week
CANTON — The St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department, like many law enforcement agencies, continues to have issues hiring officers but Sheriff Brooks has made changes to ease the burden.
During the St. Lawrence County Legislature’s Operations Committee meeting on June 13, Bigwarfe brought a resolution to the board to dissolve two part-time positions in an effort to create one full-time position.“Over the last year or so we've been having difficulty filling the part-time positions, there are many reasons why. One would probably be the money they’re making as far as hourly wages. The second is probably the pool of candidates,” Bigwarfe said.
Though some may assume the pool of candidates would be expansive, Bigwarfe explained to the board that he has severe limitations due to the civil service exam.
“We found out through civil service law rules that any state police, border patrol, any federal agency or SUNY police officers don’t qualify,” Bigwarfe said.
Bigwarfe also said the nature of the work is a big turn off for retirees that typically would fill the part-time positions.
“The last time we had any part-time employees was October of last year, mostly for transportation to and from the jail,” he said.
Bigwarfe also said his staff is at minimum levels due to a number of injuries, FMLA cases, with some attending the corrections academy and various others on leave.
Bigwarfe said that a number of changes have been implemented to save on overtime, including 12 hour shifts until the correction officers graduate from the academy in eight weeks or so.
“We’re losing another one shortly, so we will be down two. By eliminating the two part-time positions and adding a full-time position we can fill easier that will get us to our minimum staffing required by New York,” Bigwarfe said.
The move will save the county around $7,000 in the end when salary and benefits are weighed, according to Bigwarfe.
“The only caveat is that we’re losing 800 hours of work force,” he said.
Legislator Kevin Acres questioned why state and federal officers were not eligible, saying the scope of the job is much the same regardless of what department an officer is with.
“Why don’t they qualify? You would think the testing requirements would be similar enough to transfer,” Acres said.
“There are very specific tests and they don’t have much reciprocity. The New York State test isn’t the same as the St. Lawrence County exam,” Bigwarfe said.
Jonnie Dorothy, equal employment opportunity officer, also spoke on the issue, saying the issue has been brought to the New York State Civil Service’s attention many times.
“The biggest issue is that the jobs need to have the same exact exam scopes in order to transfer to any job title,” she said.
Under the current exam specifications, a New York State trooper could not just transfer to the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s office, Dorothy said.
“The issue is statewide, the New York Sheriff’s Association is aware, the lawyers are aware and they are attempting to address the issue. Another part of the issue is that people don’t want to go into law enforcement anymore, which is something that also needs to be addressed somehow,” Bigwarfe said.
Officials said that a resolution to address the testing issues will likely be introduced at the next full board meeting.