Staffing shortages will likely cause the Niskayuna Police Department to exceed its overtime budget, even as it just hired one additional officer.
“The OT line probably will be over the budgeted amount, but will be partially offset by the salary savings from vacancies,” said town Comptroller Ismat Alam.
She said the town will evaluate the budget line at the end of the year.
Staffing has been an issue at the department all year and point of contention between the town and previous interim chief Fran Wall, who cited the lack of support from the town to hire as one of the reasons for her departure in June.
In 2020 the department had 30 officers before the chief departed in the fall.
“That was a good number,” said Deputy Chief Michael Stevens, who is currently overseeing the daily operations of the department.
The department did not exceed its budget in 2020, but was under by over $21,500.
But this year the department has been operating with 26 officers until the town hired a lateral transfer from the Menands Police Department in August. Of the now 27 officers, four are out on extended leave.
“We’ve had a lot of shift shortages,” Stevens said.
As of Aug. 26, the department had spent over $88,700 of its $147,000 overtime budget, meaning with almost four months left in the year the department only has just over $58,200 before it goes over budget.
The decrease in staff has meant that the department cannot operate its traffic enforcement detail, which is an officer in the morning and evening dedicated solely to traffic issues like speeding in neighborhoods.
The town voted in August to hire John Favata, a former Niskayuna resident. His first day on duty is Sept. 15. He will be partnered with a senior officer for field training for up to one month, Stevens said.
“It’s kind of like a homecoming,” Stevens said about Favata.
Both Favata’s mother and sister still live in town. Favata had previously wanted to be an officer in the department but the town wasn’t hiring at the time.
It’s likely staffing issues will continue into the future, Stevens said during a Police and Public Safety Committee Tuesday.
“You guys could tell me to hire five today and I don’t even think it’d be possible to get them,” Stevens said at the meeting.
Stevens said he has been canvassing for officers, sending out letters of interest to five. He has not heard back from any yet. Schenectady City Police canvassed 84 people and only heard back from 10, Stevens said.
“We’re starting to see what us in law enforcement kind of feared – no one is going to want these jobs in light of the climate we work in today,” he said.
He said of the five people the department canvassed, three of them didn’t respond to Schenectady. He’s hoping it’s a different outcome for his department.
There is another police exam coming up this month, he said. However, even if the town was able to get someone into the academy it would be at least 10 months of training following the exam.