Schenectady County

AG aiding mayor with police issue

The state attorney general is now helping the mayor figure out how to abolish the Police Department.

The state attorney general is now helping the mayor figure out how to abolish the Police Department.

Before Tuesday’s public work session, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo met with Mayor Brian U. Stratton to discuss at length the dicey political issue of dissolving the city Police Department and replacing it with a countywide force.

Cuomo is a strong proponent of consolidation of governmental services and was instantly on board with the mayor’s idea, Stratton said.

“He wants to help in every way possible,” Stratton said, adding that two of Cuomo’s senior attorneys were directed to help as well.

With Cuomo’s help, Stratton is now focusing on the possibility of a countywide police department.

Cuomo’s aides are searching for grants that would pay for a feasibility study. Stratton stressed that the study must be done right now.

“We need a very quick turnaround. We’re not looking to spend months and months on this,” he said. “If we’re talking about the fact that we can’t tolerate the things that are going on [in the Police Department], we need to know what our options are.”

He said Cuomo believes there would be “significant” cost savings with a countywide department. The study could confirm that as well as examining ways to make sure every suburban town always has police protection.

“There would be guarantees for minimum staffing for each town,” Stratton said, noting that state police manage to keep a certain number of troopers in each area at all times, while countywide agencies develop a system of precincts to keep officers spread through their geographic area even during emergencies.

Of course, the biggest hurdle could be convincing Scotia, Glenville, Niskayuna and Rotterdam to give up their police in exchange for a combined force.

Cuomo’s support could help persuade local officials, Stratton said. The mayor has already adopted Cuomo’s talking points about consolidation and is clearly gearing up for a debate.

“Some [who oppose countywide police] are territorial. They might want to keep their own parochial police department,” Stratton said. “What if everyone in this county finds out their taxes would go down and they would not lose services?”

Using Cuomo’s words, he argued that consolidation “would streamline the often byzantine and cumbersome” local agencies “that saddle residents with the nation’s highest taxes.”

The cost savings would probably help persuade town residents, he added, saying that saving money isn’t as important for city residents.

“It’s about finding the right solution to all these police problems,” Stratton said. “Our motive is not cost-driven necessarily. Cost savings would certainly be an added benefit.”

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