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Herkimer/Mohawk Police Chief: cuts would make for unsafe situation

By JOLEEN FERRIS

HERKIMER, N.Y. (WKTV) - Even before Wednesday's quadruple-fatal shooting in Mohawk and Herkimer, the police chief of both villages says he was trying to convince the Herkimer Village Board that cutting two positions from the police department (one currently vacant; one anticipated retirement) would be unsafe.

Joseph Malone is Chief of Police for both the Village of Herkimer and the Village of Mohawk. Chief Malone is even more convinced after last week that cutting the police department would be unsafe, not only for officers, but the public.

"This just illustrates that it can happen here," Chief Malone said. "Our jobs are dangerous and it's becoming more and more dangerous not only for the officers, but the residents. Tough time to think of cutting public safety."

The village board has asked Malone to see if he can safely, and with adequate coverage, schedule an 18-person department. The department is currently 20-strong, but operating with 19 due to a yet-to-be-filled vacancy.

The chief says there is no fat to cut; that only 3-4 officers are working per shift.

"Nothing is cast in stone. We want to look at the thing that he comes up with. He's the professional. We'll go with his recommendations, " says Village Board Member Harold Stoffolano, who added that there will be no layoffs.

Herkimer Mayor Mark Ainsworth says they're trying to come up with ways to operate more efficiently without compromising the safety of an aging population.

"The sergeant on the desk would be going on the street and having a dispatcher, again, maybe a retired police officer on an hourly pay, no benefits, sit the desk at night," said Mayor Ainsworth.

Ainsworth added that he agrees with the police chief; it can happen anywhere.

"I think our community is still very safe," Mayor Ainsworth said. "No matter what size your police department is, what happened Wednesday is a tragedy and it could happen anywhere, no matter what size your police department is."

The Herkimer Village Board's regular monthly meeting is tonight at 7 p.m. The village budget must be in place by May 1st.

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