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Regional law enforcement officials speak about issues they face

Alexis Manore
Staff writer
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Posted 3/22/23

The Genesis Group and the Chamber Alliance of the Mohawk Valley hosted the Regional Law Enforcement Forum to have a dialogue about bail reform laws and the shifting public perception of law enforcement.

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Regional law enforcement officials speak about issues they face


WHITESBORO — The Genesis Group and the Chamber Alliance of the Mohawk Valley hosted the Regional Law Enforcement Forum to have a dialogue about bail reform laws, changing technology and the shifting public perception of law enforcement and how they are impacting regional agencies on Wednesday, March 22.    

Bail reform 

Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara said he’d like to see an increase in the bail eligibility for different offenses. Currently, bail can only be set for violent crimes and some felonies. McNamara said he’d like for bail to be set for economic crimes and larcenies.  

McNamara also said he would like to be able to set bail for drug dealers, as fentanyl and other opioid overdoses have been a large problem in the county. 

“For high-level drug offenses, I’m not talking about small possession cases, misdemeanors, but for B-felony drug cases, we should be able to put bail on these people,” Herkimer County District Attorney Jeffrey Carpenter said. “They’re a danger to our community, they’re killing people. They’re not using a gun, they’re not stabbing people, but they’re killing people with fentanyl.”  

Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol and Herkimer County Sheriff Scott Scherer expressed concern about offenders who are not based in the area committing crimes and then leaving the counties because they cannot be held on bail. Maciol said prior to bail reform, the office had 52 active bench warrants, which are issued when a person fails to appear in court. Currently, the office has 540 active bench warrants, he said.    

“My extradition budget, prior to bail reform, was $2,000 a year. The month of March so far, we’ve been to Florida, Indiana, Missouri, all in the past couple weeks and we’re looking at $4,500 a trip,” Scherer said. “But a $2,000 budget, and I’m over $12,000 just in the month of March and it’s not going to stop anytime soon.” 

Recruitment and retention issues  

New York State Police Captain Jason Place said issues with recruiting and retaining police officers began in 2014 after a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, an 18-year-old Black man, in Ferguson, Missouri. Brown’s murder triggered widespread unrest in Missouri and brought issues like police violence and racism into the national spotlight.

“A lot of the arguments you hear are about pay. You want troopers and you want police officers, you have to pay them more. But I think most police officers would tell you they’d work for nothing if they felt like they were being effective and productive,” Place said. “Bail reform and the changing times, it’s difficult for people to feel useful and productive in the current environment. 

“It’s the lack of morale that’s the difficult part,” he added.  

Maciol said issues with low staffing are very clear in the Corrections Division, where there are 77 full-time vacancies. He said most corrections officers are working 16-hour shifts, at least three days a week.  

“We actually had several members in the Corrections Division that worked more overtime than straight time,” he said. “They worked 2,500 hours of overtime last year.” 

Maciol said the county offered to pay officers double time and a half, and triple time on the weekends. He said while some people do enjoy the pay, burnout is becoming a serious issue.  

Changing public sentiment

John Reilly, captain of support services for the Rome Police Department, emphasized the necessity of increased mental health resources. While the state has been allocating money toward improving mental health, for the past few years, it shut down state-funded residential mental health care facilities. In 2020, 1,000 beds in psychiatric treatment facilities were shuttered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.   

“I’ve noticed the mental health issues have increased in the city a lot,” Reilly said. “We have more people on the street than should be on the street. I’m not saying they’re dangerous, but they’re sick individuals.”  

McNamara encouraged people to speak out and contact their legislators to reform the bail and discovery laws. 

“I get phone calls from small businesses where they say, ‘This person was arrested for coming in my store and stealing stuff, and they were out and back at my store four hours later laughing at me,’” he said. “I tell people when they call complaining to me, you need to call Joe Griffo. You need to call Marianne Buttenschon, you need to call the governor’s office. Because I can’t change it.” 


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