After Day’s proposed cuts, Democrats rally behind Falco

Rockland sheriff condemns county executive’s proposed police cuts

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

Sheriff Lou Falco flanked by Stony Point Supervisor Geoff Finn, Haverstraw Supervisor Howard Phillips, Orangetown Supervisor Andy Phillips
Sheriff Lou Falco flanked by Stony Point Supervisor Geoff Finn, Haverstraw Supervisor Howard Phillips, Orangetown Supervisor Andy Phillips

NEW CITY – Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco III offered sharp words for County Executive Ed Day’s draft 2015 budget on Friday, arguing the cuts to the sheriff’s office would reverberate throughout the county, impact taxpayers and undermine public safety.

Speaking to a crowd of police officers and local officials outside of the Allison-Parris Building in New City, Falco called the proposal an “irresponsible and ill-conceived” move which would decimate specialized units within the department while forcing Rockland’s town and village police to absorb police functions and hike taxes to pick up the slack.

“[Day] has repeatedly stated that public safety is a priority of his administration and his first action on the budget period is to dismember the only full-time law-enforcement service in the county of Rockland,” Falco said.

Falco further argued the budget, which proposes eliminating the Sheriff’s Police Division (a total of 37 positions from the Sheriff’s road and mounted units), would negatively impact public safety. Falco said the proposal would over-burdenlocal police and force legally-mandated reorganizations within the Sheriff’s Department, which could decimate specialized units such as the county’s bomb disposal, SWAT, arson, computer crimes, intelligence, aerial and marine units.

Day’s Thursday budget announcement specifically singled out the Sheriff’s Patrol Division, but said special units would remain intact. Day did not specifically indicate emergency services would be shifted to towns and villages, though Falco opined that Day “doesn’t understand civil service” and argued civil service law would not allow compartmentalization of expenses to those two specific areas.

According to Falco, Day gave no prior indication the cuts would be included in his budget, making the draft budget a surprise to law enforcement and prompting Falco to characterize the move as dishonest.

Stony Point Police Chief and Police Chief’s Association of Rockland County President Brian Moore echoed Falco’s statements on behalf of local police, stating that it would “decimate decades of carefully-planned progress” and deprive law enforcement of valuable collaborative capabilities. According to Moore, the Sheriff’s Department is often tasked with focusing collaborative efforts between different levels of local police.

Cuts to its financial resources and manpower, he argued, would impact those capabilities, forcing the Sheriff’s Department to sacrifice resources from specialized areas to maintain working relationships with town and village police. “None of these are duplications and all of these are essential services in Rockland County,” Moore said. “Does he expect the towns and villages to hire and train more officers and each take on these vital roles for themselves?”

The proposed cuts have provoked resistance from many elected officials, particularly town supervisors Geoff Finn, Howard Phillips, Andy Stewart and Christopher St. Lawrence, who claim it would force them to scramble to fill the gap left by the cuts. All of Rockland’s supervisors except Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack appeared to show their support for the Sheriff’s Department, though Falco indicated Gromack gave his regards to the department as well.

Haverstraw Town Supervisor Howard Phillips spoke on behalf of the other supervisors, arguing county finances had to work with municipalities rather than against them and argued that passing costs on to towns and villages was regressive.

“Reform and leadership means taking on the challenge, not throwing it away,” Phillips said. “This is a gimmick. We’re going back to the policies of the last few years that have failed the people of Rockland County.”

There has been no indication that the Sheriff’s Department will legally challenge the budget. Falco stated he will petition the County Legislature to rework the budget to keep the positions.

The Sheriff’s Department is only one of several areas of the 2015 draft budget where personnel were cut. Of the 111 jobs targeted for elimination, 33 more were from the Summit Park facility, where Day has previously looked to replace radiology, laundry and security personnel with contract workers.

Another 41 jobs are also slated to be cut from various other departments.

Day responded to Falco’s remarks as follows:

“We fully understand the reaction of some local law enforcement officers to the County Executive’s 2015 budget proposal. However, it’s absurd to assert that County Executive Day – a former NYPD Detective Commander and Baltimore Police Chief of Detectives – would propose cuts that compromise public safety. All proposed reductions to the Sheriff’s Office are consistent with recommendations offered in an expert independent assessment of the department’s non-mandated road patrol division. As stated by the county executive during his budget briefing on Thursday, cuts to all county departments and agencies are difficult – but necessary – in order to move the county beyond these turbulent economic times. As always, we look forward to a dialogue with Sheriff Falco on different ways to achieve critical savings.”