Frankfort wasn’t Ground Zero for Kurt Myers’ rampage in Herkimer County last month, but the deadly massacre’s wake-up call was enough to reignite cooperative efforts between the Frankfort town and village police departments.
A slight mix-up over school lockdowns in Frankfort at the time made clear both police agencies need to be on the same page during such a crisis, officials agree. But it also reaffirmed the police leaders’ belief both departments and communities would be best served with more formalized agreements to work together and back each other up.
Frankfort town police Officer in Charge James Getman and Frankfort village police Chief Ronald Petrie have already set in motion talks for how to respond jointly to the three area schools in times of emergencies. These discussions, however, have also taken steps toward proposed “memorandums of understanding” that dictate specifically when and how each agency would back the other up in times of need.
Any agreements would be left to the village board and town council for approval, however, and neither police official is calling this “consolidation.”
But still, Petrie said, it’s a premise he hopes will open everyone’s eyes and minds to the possibilities of joining village and town police forces one way or another.
“I think it’s going to show the residents and both of the boards that, even though we’re two separate agencies, we can still act as one,” Petrie said. “The bottom-line is the only way it’s going to happen is to show people it’s going to save them money and it’s going to be a more efficient way to run business.”
Both the village and town police departments each have three full-time officers, with between 14 to 16 part-time officers.
The two departments typically back each other up if necessary during serious incidents, but a concern arises during those other times when each department only has one officer on duty. In those instances, an officer might respond alone late at night to a domestic incident, burglary or traffic stop on the rural, unlit outskirts of the town without any immediate backup, the officials explained.
Instead of relying on the availability of state troopers, Getman and Petrie agree there should be a formalized agreement stating exactly when each agency would respond to assist the other.
“After the recent school shooting in Sandy Hook, we began speaking of different areas of concerns that we had, not only for school safety, but also for officer safety issues, as far as backup,” Getman said. “Even though it’s in the very premature stages, it’s still moving in the right direction as far as discussing the issues.”
Once Getman and Petrie come up with some terms regarding cooperation and training, they’ll share their thoughts with the municipal boards and take it from there.
Page 2 of 2 - While Frankfort Town Supervisor Joseph Kinney said the town council is no position to even “entertain” talks of consolidating with the village, he did commend Getman and Petrie for looking to further strengthen the police relationships.
“Is this a first step? Yes, I would endorse it,” Kinney said Monday. “But consolidation, that’s a long and winding road. We’d be willing to listen, and if it comes to that point I would consider it and study it long and hard to see if it provides services to both municipalities at a reduced cost.”
Frankfort Village Mayor Frank Moracco acknowledged that more “brainstorming” is going on now than there has been in a long time toward cooperation between the two police departments. And since the village – like many municipalities – is trying to make ends meet with less and less funds, Moracco would be open to any arrangement that fairly benefits both communities.
“If it’s something that is feasible and something that’s takes into consideration what’s best for both town and village residents – not just one or the other – then we’d definitely look at it,” Moracco said. “The bottom-line is that the communication is there, the trust is there, and I think we’re heading in the right direction.”