Marlborough supports police study
The Marlborough Town Board has approved a resolution in support of a study to determine the “logistical and financial advantages of consolidation of police services within Ulster County.” The study will be conducted and paid for by Ulster County.
Supervisor Stephen Osborn said previous data collection by the county does not contain enough information to determine if consolidation on a county-wide basis is a viable option that will save taxpayer money.
“Until you actually do the math, how can you actually put the question to rest,” he said. “What we’re asking the county to do is to do the math [but] they need the encouragement of the towns in Ulster County to cause it to happen.”
Police Chief Gerald Cocozza informed the board that the creation of a county police force has been under consideration for some time but his department has never been asked to supply data to the county.
“It is and was a politically driven movement that was done,” Cocozza said. “As far as I understand it, it was dead in the water; it wasn’t going anywhere; it was logistically impossible.”
Sgt. Justin Pascale questioned the timing of the Town Board resolution.
“What’s the motivation to bring this up now?” he asked.
Osborn responded, saying it was on the agenda because he received a phone call from County Executive Mike Hein seeking the town’s support.
Councilman Howard Baker said all expenditures are under a microscope.
“Everything is being scrutinized: this is the environment we’re in,” he said. “If there is some way we can help save money and still provide the same level of service, we as a Town Board have the responsibility to look into that kind of stuff.”
Cocozza said the only reason the county police come to Marlborough is to write tickets.
“You know it and I know it,” he told the board. “My fear is that you’re going to use the study and look at it and you’re not going to compare apples to apples.”
Cocozza said he was not even informed that this resolution was on the board’s agenda.
“I don’t think it was fair to me. I am the head of the department and it’s something that involves my department. I think it should have been discussed,” he said. “A heads up would have been nice, that’s all. This way I would have been able to handle the calls better that I got, without having any information on it.”
Sgt. Pascale concurred with Chief Cocozza, adding “It’s called respect. You talk about a glass ceiling and everything’s supposed to be transparent and this gets brought up at the 11th hour. I just hope this is not incidental to contract negotiations because the Police Department has been demonized, especially during contract negotiations.”
Osborn said Pascale was trying to prove a thesis “that I don’t think exists. You’re trying to make it about contracts, but it’s not about contracts.”
Cocozza said he favors the study because he believes the results will show the viability of his department and ultimately the impracticality of having a county police force.
The board reminded Cocozza that Marlborough opted out of a shared service proposal with the county for snow plowing and may not do so on this program, if and when it becomes a formal proposal.
“We wouldn’t do anything without discussing it with you,” Councilman Ed Molinelli assured Cocozza. “You’re the expert in the department.” Osborn added that the study may determine whether there is a duplication of services in law enforcement. He said once data is collected and compiled the town will have a better idea on the validity of a county police force.
“Citizens deserve to have a more analytical study so they can be satisfied that we [Town Board] did our due diligence,” he said.
Osborn said the county will look at all of the duties and services of police departments across the county to verify if and where there may be overlaps in services.
“I want numbers [in order] to be able to tell the people of Marlborough yes, we have a good police department at this funding level and here’s why,” Osborn said.
Councilman Scott Corcoran said the intention of the study is not to eliminate the Marlborough Police Department.
“The goal here is to say are there any services we duplicate and can we do it in a cheaper way for the taxpayers overall,” he said.
By MARK REYNOLDS