Two new police officers were sworn in at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, filling vacancies caused by retirements over the past year, only a few months after city officials had talked about laying off police officers.
“This is a shot in the arm,” said city Police Chief Edward Moore. “It will keep overtime costs down.”
Christopher Callahan, 26, a graduate of Saratoga Springs High School and SUNY Potsdam, and a U.S. Army veteran of the war in Iraq, and Kurt Nolan, 23, a graduate of Ballston Spa High School and Adirondack Community College, were sworn in by Public Safety Commissioner Ronald Kim.
Moore said it takes 18 months to bring a new officer onto the 71-officer Police Department, including intensive background checks, physicals, testing and training at the Police Academy.
The hiring process for Callahan and Nolan started before the city became burdened with a $2 million to $3 million budget shortfall this year, Moore said.
“They are replacements for people who retired,” Moore said. Lt. Jack King and Sgt. William Crandall retired over the past 12 to 18 months.
Moore said the city Police Department has grown by just 6 percent over the past 11 years. He said the workload — the number of calls the department answers — has grown by 65 percent during that time.
“We are barely keeping our head above water,” Moore said.
Despite the city’s budget problems, Moore will continue to recommend new officers be hired to fill vacancies caused by retirements and disability injuries.
Kim said Tuesday that unless vacancies are filled on the Police Department, “we doom ourselves to additional overtime down the road.”
Earlier this summer, city officials were discussing laying off police officers and firefighters in an attempt to address the serious budget shortfall. The city was expecting $1.9 million in revenue from the video lottery terminals at Saratoga Gaming and Raceway this year but the state changed its VLT revenue sharing rules and the city ended up with no VLT money.
Kim earlier this summer offered the City Council, as a budget cutting option, not to hire the two new officers then at the Police Academy in Albany. This and other proposed staff reductions in the Police Department and Fire Department were rejected in the end by the council as surplus fund money and other revenue was used to balance the budget.
For more than a year, Kim has told people the Public Safety Department has hired that the city has a budget problem and staff reductions are a possibility.
Callahan and Nolan will not be on regular patrol duties for another 12 weeks. During this field training period they will learn Police Department policies, proper use of force and other local police procedures.
Moore said the city Police Department has been plagued with officers being off duty on disability injuries for the past three years.
He said 10 officers were on disability leave in 2007 and 11 officers on disability leave in 2008. This year is a little better but there are still more officers on disability leave than usual. Overtime is used to fill the manpower gap.
“These two officers are much needed,” Moore said.
Both of the new officers held leadership positions at the Police Academy, Kim said when he introduced them at the council meeting. Many family members attended the swearing-in ceremony that was held prior to regular business at the council meeting.