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Foss: Disband village police department

Foss: Disband village police department

The village of Galway is tiny -- so tiny, I'd always assumed it didn't have a police force
Foss: Disband village police department
Photographer: Erica Miller

One of the things I like about my job is that I'm always learning. 

This week I learned that the village of Galway has a police force.

Maybe I should have known this. 

But I didn't, and I think I can be forgiven for not knowing it. 

The village of Galway is tiny -- so tiny, I'd always assumed it didn't have a police force. 

Had the village's small police force not been engulfed by scandal, I might have gone on assuming this, for the simple reason that tiny villages don't need their own police forces. 

They might like to think that they do, but they don't. 

Other agencies, such as the county sheriff's department or the New York state troopers, are more than capable of providing law enforcement services for these communities.

In my mind, this week's arrest of four Galway police officers is an embarrassment, but also an opportunity. 

The village should disband its police department and find someone else to provide whatever policing it needs. It shouldn't need much -- there are only about 215 people living in Galway. 

Village Mayor William Hyde told The Daily Gazette that the department was established to deter speeding, which I interpret to mean that it provides revenue by ticketing out-of-town drivers. 

Not to mention part-time jobs for retired police officers who want to carry a handgun and a badge. 

It's worth asking how much value a police department that becomes the target of a yearlong state Attorney General probe, as this police department did, really brings to the community. 

Last year a former Galway police officer, Richard Schoonmaker, filed a lawsuit against the department alleging a number of illegal and/or improper practices, including destruction of evidence in open investigations, officers improperly accessing state criminal computer records and possession of automatic weapons by members of the department in violation of firearms laws. 

Schoonmaker also accused Police Chief Leslie Klein of certifying that he had overseen training that he knew had not been completed. Which is what the Attorney General's office has also accused Klein of. 

If there's any truth to these allegations, it means that the Galway police force is in desperate need of reform. 

But I wouldn't bother with reforming this tiny department. 

I would just disband it, and others like it, and call it a day. 

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