POUGHKEEPSIE – City of Poughkeepsie police officers are retiring at a fast pace and the exodus has Mayor Rob Rolison concerned. Since January, four detectives and three uniformed members have retired, with another patrol officer set to retire on April 30. With those eight retirements, the police department is losing 212 years of police experience. An additional 28 members of the department are eligible to retire before the end of the year.
Rolison, speaking after a retirement ceremony for Detective Matt Cutler on Friday said, “It is worrisome in that you never want to get in a position where you don’t have enough officers to get out on the street, do all of the things we are doing such as increased community policing efforts and uniform patrols.”
The mayor said that the police department’s budget has money available to pay for overtime, but proper staffing is more important. “Our first priority is ensuring we have sufficient staffing on the street to respond to 911 calls,” said Rolison. He also noted that many officers have vacations scheduled during the summer months which will further stress the staffing schedule.
Chief Tom Pape said that efforts are underway to bring new officers into the department. “We are re-canvassing the current civil service list looking for eligible candidates, but the list is somewhat anemic.” Calling the staffing levels a “challenge,” Pape said that his command staff is working diligently to develop a solution. He noted that approximately 40 candidates were scheduled to take the agility portion of pre-qualifying this past Saturday. The agility test is being conducted by the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office and the Beacon Police Department along with the City and Town of Poughkeepsie departments.
A member of Pape’s command staff noted that there are approximately 28 police officer job openings throughout Dutchess County that are currently unfilled because of the lack of qualified candidates.
The collective bargaining agreement (contract) between the city and the Police Benevolent Association was recently approved by the common council after months of delays by Council Chairperson Sarah Salem. The council had voted against approving it earlier this year. On March 1, after a lengthy closed-door debate, the council narrowly approved the contract. The agreement stipulates that there are supposed to be 92 sworn officers in the department, including two captains and the chief. When the next officer retires on April 30, the department will have 81 members.
Detective Chris Libolt, the PBA vice-president is concerned that the department is going to be short-staffed, affecting the safety of the officers and the community they serve. “My fear is that officers will be mandated to work overtime, without sufficient relief. The extended hours put the safety of the officers at risk due to lack of rest. I suspect that in addition to the retirements, newer cops will leave for other departments where they can earn the same salaries without being forced to work overtime.”
Several of the recent retirees have told Mid-Hudson News that the current anti-police environment played a role in deciding to retire. “Unfortunately, there are members of the common council that have used national events to create a hostile work environment for Poughkeepsie officers. Many of us have spent years protecting this city and some of the council are attempting to micro-manage the department without any knowledge of the work we do,” said a recently retired detective.