SARATOGA SPRINGS — Without fanfare, Robert Jillson was recently promoted from city police lieutenant to assistant chief, Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton confirmed Thursday.
“He’s qualified, capable, trained, and I think will be an excellent complement to [Police Chief Shane] Crooks,” said Dalton, whose tenure ends on Jan. 1, after she opted not to seek re-election, instead making an unsuccessful run for mayor last month. “He’ll be terrific for the department.”
Jillson’s promotion comes amid a probe of the department by the state Attorney General’s Office and concerns about whether the department should be advancing officers.
“I’m excited about it,” Jillson said of the promotion when reached by phone. “I know there’s a lot going on out there in the political realm, that’s back and forth. I can’t help but be aware of it because it’s involving me and my position.”
“I’d like to be more excited about that because there’s still a hint of uncertainty out there, which, it bothers me because we may keep moving in a positive direction and knowing this should be a good time to transition with the incoming administration and the outgoing assistant chief,” he said.
“And there’s just a little bit of mystery that’s out there and it takes a little bit away. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me a little bit, knowing that was behind the scenes.”
Nonetheless, Jillson said he’s “excited about the opportunities working with Chief Crooks and the city’s new administration of four Democrats elected to the city council.
Jillson said the police command staff met earlier this week with incoming Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino, who will step in for Dalton on Jan. 1.
Jillson, who will continue to serve as the department’s spokesman, for the time being, said it was beneficial to know what Montagnino’s expectations for the department are.
“With my movement to assistant chief, there will be someone coming into the investigating lieutenant spot who typically serves as the PIO (public information officer).”
Jillson referred to Assistant Chief John Catone as “a great asset” and said he plans to discuss budgeting and other administrative duties with him.
For only a month, the department will function with Catone and Jillson as two assistant chiefs.
Eric Warfield, a former sergeant, was promoted to lieutenant, Dalton said.
Dalton earlier this month interviewed Jillson, Lt. Laura Emanation and Sgt. Paul Veitch for the assistant chief post.
Jillson, based on his raw score on the Civil Service exam administered in March, and seniority credits, registered the top overall score of 93, followed by Emanation’s score of 92, and Sgt. Paul Veitch’s 87. Two others — Lt. Sean Briscoe, who scored an 84, and Sgt. Tyler McIntosh, who scored 82.4 — took the exam.
The city did not immediately return a message requesting Jillson’s new salary. A line item in the city’s comprehensive 2021 budget set aside $112,000 for the assistant chief’s salary.
During a recent City Council meeting at which the City Council allocated additional funding for Jillson’s salary to pay him at the rate of an assistant chief, several Black Lives Matter activists expressed disappointment with the city’s plan.
The police are under investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office for its alleged treatment of BLM activists earlier this year, when a dozen protesters were arrested, some six weeks after a July protest.
The city received correspondence from the Civil Rights Bureau of the AG office concerning allegations that the police department violated state and federal law as it relates to recent BLM protests that occurred in the city.
The attorney general’s office began the investigation to assess whether the protesters were targeted with excessive force and retaliatory arrests.
Over the summer Catone and Dalton held a press conference where Catone suggested that activists and protesters were responsible for an uptick in late-night fights in the bar district and that the police department rejected the narrative of the activists.
Montagnino has previously stated Dalton shouldn’t promote officers while the AG office is investigating the department.
“First of all, that’s going to take years, probably,” Dalton said of the AG probe. “Years. We believe that we’ve done things correctly. We’re turning over everything. We’re being completely transparent. You’re making it impossible for us to operate effectively as a police department by not allowing us to fill positions and fill vacancies. It would be crippling.”
She went on to say that the AG hadn’t requested that promotions be put on hold during the investigation.
“No one has suggested that’s an appropriate response to this request for information. We still have to keep the community safe,” Dalton said.
According to the city’s website, Jillson began his law enforcement career with the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Office in January 1990 after having served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
He was appointed full-time to the Saratoga Springs Police Department in June 1998, and promoted to sergeant in October 2006, at which time he was reassigned back to the patrol division. He held that position until February 2009, when he was promoted to lieutenant.
After becoming lieutenant, Jillson served as the day shift commander until October 2013, when he assumed responsibility for the Investigation’s Division.
Jillson also graduated from the FBI National Academy.
Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected].