Saratoga Springs

Saratoga Springs commissioner beefs up police’s weekend staffing by demoting 2 officers

Saratoga Springs Police Department officers and Saratoga County sheriffs look down Caroline Street in Saratoga Springs as crowds fill the bars in the late hours on a July 2021 Friday night.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Saratoga Springs Police Department officers and Saratoga County sheriffs look down Caroline Street in Saratoga Springs as crowds fill the bars in the late hours on a July 2021 Friday night.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Only three months after they were promoted, the city Police Department’s assistant chief and a lieutenant are being demoted, but the moves have nothing to do with job performance, Public Safety Commissioner James Montagnino said.

In a pair of transitions finalized by the City Council on Tuesday, Assistant Chief Robert Jillson will return to the rank of lieutenant, as of April, while Lt. Frederick Warfield will return to sergeant.

The shuffling allows the department to schedule Warfield and a patrol officer on weekends, a big need for the tourist city of 28,000 residents, Montagnino said.

The collective bargaining agreement dictates that the chief and assistant chief work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.  

“There’s really no additional value gained by having two people doing the same thing,” Montagnino said, adding that about 40% of the city’s sworn officers do not work outside of the police station. That includes 11 investigators, the chief, assistant chief, and four lieutenants.

“We’re busiest on the weekends, and yet all the upper echelon of the department are not on the clock, unless they’re called in special, like in an overtime situation,” the commissioner said.

Jillson was promoted from lieutenant to assistant chief in December, while Warfield ascended from sergeant to Jillson’s formerly vacated lieutenant post.

Former Assistant Chief John Catone retired in January.

The department calls for two assistant chief positions, and both will stand vacant. There are also three vacant sergeant positions.

In an email, Police Chief Shane Crooks referred comment to Montagnino, and Jillson responded to an inquiry in a text message.

“I’m disappointed,” Jillson wrote. “No one is losing a job and I have personally reached out to those affected in one way or another. We still have a city to serve and must meet the needs.”

But the moves drew the attention of state Sen. Daphne Jordan, R, C, I-Halfmoon, who weighed in with a statement Wednesday.

“Like many across the community,” the legislator’s statement read, “I have real concerns and many questions regarding the Saratoga Springs City Council’s decision… to cut the Assistant Police Chief position 

“The City of Saratoga Springs is a world-renowned tourism and recreational destination and a vital economic driver for our Capital Region. The continued success of Saratoga Springs’ economy, and the safety and security of its residents and visitors, are absolutely critical. Moving forward, I’m expecting the City Council to honor the stated promise of its Patrol Division Increase Initiative, which eliminated the assistant police chief position and was supposed to redirect funding to add two new positions.”

Jordan said she rode along with, and stood on the corner of Caroline and Putnam streets from late at night into the early morning hours, with the Saratoga Springs Police Department.

She said she observed their professionalism and dedication to serving the people of Saratoga Springs and its many visitors.

“Defunding the police is not an option,” Jordan said. “Instead, we need to defend, fund, and stand with our heroic police. I urge the City Council to keep its promise and have more officers protecting and serving the citizens of Saratoga Springs. Time will tell and we will be watching.”

Montagnino rejected the “defund” designation which took hold on social media and elsewhere Wednesday.

“Defunding suggests that we’re taking money away,” he said. “We’re not taking money away. We’re moving it to a different spot. We’re taking it from a redundant job that’s basically administrative and putting it toward patrol officers and sergeants.”

Demoting the two officers is more the working of the civil service process, he said.

“Demotion carries with it an implication that somebody did something wrong, and I certainly don’t want to suggest that,” the commissioner said. “It’s just that we reassessed the needs of the city and the resources available and found that to have a redundant administrative position at the expense of officers on patrol was improvident.” 

Jillson isn’t expected to suffer a financial loss from the move because by returning to lieutenant he is again eligible for overtime pay.

“Last year one of the lieutenants had 200-some-odd hours of overtime,” Montagnino said. “If you did the arithmetic and figured what the average overtime comes out to, it’s probably dollar for dollar.”

However, the assistant chief gets use of a city vehicle while lieutenants do not.

Montagnino was asked about the optics of his decision.

“I think, instead of alarm, this should be met with a certain amount of satisfaction from the public because they’re getting more cops on the street without raising taxes,” he said. “What it boils down to is it’s rare in government for unnecessary bureaucratic positions to be trimmed. Government generally just keeps getting bigger.”

Contact reporter Brian Lee at [email protected] or 518-419-9766.

Categories: Saratoga County, Saratoga Springs

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