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Cobleskill officers resign after change to police overtime rules

 Cobleskill Mayor Rebecca Stanton-Terk
Image capture by WAMC
Village of Cobleskill/SCHOPEG
Cobleskill Mayor Rebecca Stanton-Terk

A change to police overtime rules in the Schoharie County Village of Cobleskill drew protest at a meeting this week including resignations by members of the village police department.

On June 27th, the Cobleskill village board passed a resolution to eliminate the use of police overtime to fill a shift. The policy began July 3rd and is to remain in effect until rescinded by the board.

Before a standing room-only crowd Tuesday, Village Mayor Rebecca Stanton-Terk said the change comes after the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors hired a consulting firm to conduct a county-wide law enforcement feasibility study.

“This cooperation is the direct result of the village board of taking a proactive approach providing suggestions to adjust the workforce in anticipation of upcoming retirements. Further, village taxpayers cannot continue to spend 87 cents of every tax dollar to fund our village police force,” said Stanton-Terk.

With a majority of the village’s budget going toward funding the 12-member police department, Stanton-Terk called the situation unsustainable.

“The intention is to further try different coverage scenarios that can accommodate traditionally active times of a given day, while utilizing cooperative agencies as available,” said Stanton-Terk.

Reached by WAMC, the mayor declined to answer questions.

Tuesday’s meeting was the first since the new overtime policy went into effect.

Branden Collison, President of the Cobleskill PBA, said the policy has resulted in times with a total lack of police coverage for the village of more than 4,000 residents.

“How many people felt safe this weekend? Nine p.m. Friday night patrols left the village. Do you know what time they got back on? It wasn’t 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. Because of your guys with no overtime, there was no patrols from Friday night 9 p.m. to Sunday morning 7 a.m. when I came in. So, you had the whole weekend, not a single patrol,” said Collison.

Collison said he felt “targeted” by the village board after word got out that he collected more than 40 hours of overtime in one pay period through covering shifts.

“Tell me by shaking your heads, yes or no, wasn’t it true that the reason why this whole no-overtime thing came about is because you were told, ‘Collison has 46 hours of overtime this pay period.’ Go ahead, shake your heads. No? Nobody said that? That wasn’t the reason?”

Collison then announced his intention to resign effective July 31st. He also read aloud a resignation letter from a fellow officer.

Many others stood in support of PBA.

A man who identified himself as a former state trooper cautioned the board against relying on state and county law enforcement for coverage in a rural area where state police are limited overnight to one car with two troopers.

Resident Victor Taylor called for the removal of village officials over the matter.

“I as a concerned citizen would go as far as calling for immediate removal of the mayor and board of trustees. They have failed this community. We are much less safe today. The future, most certainly not written, seems quite clear,” said Taylor.

Resident Wendy Cook defended the new overtime policy. She acknowledged that the village wants 24/7 policing.

“The issue is how are we going to get it? And using 87 percent of the general revenues for one purpose is not feasible,” said Cook.

Since Tuesday’s meeting, more officers have reportedly resigned. Police Chief Justin Manchester did not return a message Thursday. His employment status was not immediately clear.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.