SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (NEWS10) — As Saratoga continues preparing for what is expected to be a busy summer season, the city is taking steps to address public safety concerns. Tuesday night, the city council voted unanimously on a measure that hopes to get more officers onto the street, but the move has drawn some criticism from the police union.
“In order to maintain the safe atmosphere that Saratoga has always enjoyed, we need the maximum number of patrol officers on the street,” said Public Safety Commissioner Jim Montagnino. He said that increasing officers can act as a deterrent and help people feel safe in the city, which he adds has not seen an increase in crime.
To fund this move, the city is reallocating funds away from the assistant police chief position, using that money in an effort to bring in more patrol officers. “There are administrative jobs that are, in some cases, duplicative of other positions,” the public safety commissioner explained. “The chief and the assistant chief, their job descriptions are virtually identical.”
But that move is drawing immense criticism from the Saratoga Springs Police Benevolent Association. In a fiery statement posted on Facebook, the union said in part:
“While they theorize it would create funds to hire more officers, we need officers who want to work here.”Saratoga Springs PBA
The PBA went on to say their members fully support Assistant Chief Robert Jillson. They also criticize the impacts of demotions on a department:
“The decision made last night by this council will be catastrophic to this police department, and unfortunately it could affect the public safety services our department provides.”Saratoga Springs PBA
The commissioner said that Assistant Chief Jillson can bump into a lieutenant position. Jillson told NEWS that he will not retire and will continue serving the best interest of the community. The reallocation is set to take effect early next month.
“It was a difficult decision. it wasn’t made lightly. Certainly, there are people that won’t be receptive to it. But in the long run, the city benefits, because there are more police on the street on the street without increasing taxes to do it,” Montagnino said.
Addressing public safety concerns has been a major factor in the city planning for the summer ahead. With no COVID restrictions heading into the busy season, the city is anticipating and hoping for a record-breaking summer. Last summer, there were several instances of violence, including a large brawl where a person was stabbed and a gun was fired on Caroline Street.
Just last weekend, three officers were injured when police said a fight broke out as patrons were leaving Gaffney’s. To address these types of concerns, the city is also considering cordoning off Caroline Street in order to screen patrons as they’re coming in, a move Montagnino says would increase security in the area.
In speaking about the importance of having increased patrols, the public safety commissioner points to efforts of keeping downtown safe, and also a recent instance of an officer arresting an individual who was allegedly carrying a firearm. Montagnino says that person was apprehended following information obtained by an officer patrolling the area.