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As Summer Approaches, Westchester Must Protect Our Parks

Democrats Call for Adequate Public Safety Department Staffing

 

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(WHITE PLAINS, NY) With this weekend being the unofficial start of the summer, Democratic legislators and members of the Westchester County Department of Public Safety Police Benevolent Association stood together yesterday calling for a safe level of police staffing in our parks.


County Executive Astorino’s 2017 Budget funds 292 officer positions. The number of vacancies as of today stands at 10, with more vacancies expected.


“All too often, officers are pulled from their regular assignments to cover incidents that take place in our parks,” said Legislator Ben Boykin (D-White Plains), Chair of the Committee on Public Safety & Social Services. “Or – due to the lack of necessary manpower, officers from other police departments are called to respond because of lengthy response times by county units.”


“Due to the County Executive’s untenable budgets, we are in a situation where we have officers leaving their posts on our parkways to cover issues in our parks,” added Legislator MaryJane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-Hudson). “This, by definition, creates a public safety hazard every time they are asked to do their job. This is unacceptable – we need officers protecting our parks and our parkways.”


Patrols within the park system have been continuously diminished or done away with altogether, despite incidents that have occurred when patrols would have been there.


“Over the past few years, as budgets were passed and resources were cut, decisions had to be made about which parks posts would be scaled back or eliminated,” said Mike Hagan, President, Westchester County PBA. “These cuts were made, not based on a needs assessment, but on budget limitations. To make matters worse the administration has made the decision to deal with later budget shortfalls by refusing to fill budgeted Police Officer Positions.”


Officers in various specialized units, like bomb squad, narcotics, joint terrorist task force, and others have been re-assigned to cover routine patrols. Additionally, Posts are routinely covered on overtime shifts – which is less desirable than having adequate manpower available.


“Westchester has been running an officer deficit for years. Positions are funded in the budget and subsequently left unfilled through the year. This creates a widening gap each year,” said Majority Leader Catherine Borgia (D-Ossining). “Even with the hiring of 5 officers earlier this year – we will still have the same number of vacancies, if not more, than when the year began.”


“Proper level of staffing has a direct impact on public safety and officer safety and we as a County need to make sure we are doing everything we can to protect Westchester taxpayers,” concluded Borgia.

 

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