The Gloversville Common Council made the right call Tuesday when it decided, in the face of chronic budget woes, to apply for a federal grant that would enable it to hire four new police officers at no cost for three years. The catch is that it would have pay the cops for at least one year after.
The councilmen didn’t commit to actually hiring the cops — they’ll decide that later, if and when the grant comes through. But at least they took the first step.
The city’s police force would undoubtedly benefit from some augmenting. Its forces have been depleted over the past decade by some 25 percent, but crime problems have not. When two unrelated riots broke out in separate neighborhoods on the same day last month, there were only three cops available to quell them. It wasn’t enough, which was probably how the disturbances escalated.
The city’s finances are admittedly pretty shaky, but they should improve with the economy clearly emerging from the recession. If the city were to set aside the equivalent of one of the four cops’ salaries in each of the next three years, the money would be available by the fourth — when it has to pay the full salaries of all four of them. If things haven’t turned around by Year Five, it can always get rid of the cops then.
But the city’s depleted police force is one of the thinnest around. Beefing it up for three years at no local expense is worth having to pay full freight in the fourth.