Dozens turned out to support Cobleskill Police in their contract dispute with the village Tuesday night.
Speaker after speaker pointed to the department’s roll in keeping Cobleskill safe 24/7––a reference to the PD not filling a night shift because of a manpower shortage.
With salary proposals at odds, police and village officials have been negotiating a new contract since July; talks are at an impasse and are going to mediation.
Possibly to seek better pay with the Schoharie County Sheriff’s Office, two officers are leaving, and the village board accepted their resignations Tuesday night.
With two leaving, police won’t be able to cover the shift from 1am to 7am starting Monday.
It was the manpower shortage that many speakers focused on, as police officers lined the wall of the meeting room and residents filled seats.
Having no night coverage is “my great fear,” said District Attorney Susan Mallery, also a Cobleskill resident.
“I’m scared for my community.”
Ms. Mallery also pointed out that the Cobleskill PD, Sheriff’s Office, State Police and University Police work together.
“We work as a team, backing each other up,” she said. “That is the strength of our community.”
Vic Taylor, who lives on Grandview Drive, referenced gunshots fired in his neighborhood last year.
If police were unable to respond, Mr. Taylor said, “Do I have to sit on my lawn armed? I want cops to do that.”
Others, including Nancy Van Deusen and Vinnie Massarotti, stressed the need for a strong police force.
“If we need to raise salaries, we need to do that,” Ms. Van Deusen said.
Officers often back up first-responders on mental health calls, an essential duty, said Harold Southworth, Bassett Heathcare’s director of Public Safety and transportation.
“We’re at risk when law enforcement’s not available,” Mr. Southworth said. “Help may be minutes away when we need seconds.”
Branden Collison, president of the Cobleskill Police Benevolent Association, charged village officials with a lack of communication during the talks.
“I sent emails, phone calls and get no reply,” Officer Collison said. “There’s a lack of respect. It’s unacceptable.
“I’m not taking it personally, but some things have to be said.”
Officer Collison also pointed to the crowd of 70 who came to support the police.
“They’re here tonight because they care,” he said.
Mayor Becky Terk was silent while the dozen or so speakers addressed the village board, but she responded at the end.
As for losing two officers and leaving a shift unmanned, Mayor Terk said, “We wish to God that wasn’t the case.”
The lack of respect charge was unfounded, she added.
“We respect all village employees. I feel like we’re family,” Mayor Terk said.
“We are stronger together. We honor and support our police officers.”