Should village police patrol the town?

TUPPER LAKE – There has been some question regarding the role of the village police in the town of Tupper Lake.

During last week’s village board meeting, Trustee Leon LeBlanc raised concerns about the breadth of village police patrols. Since last year the town has paid the village $25,000 a year to have the police respond to calls outside the village limits in the town.

“There’s some question here about the department going into the town,” LeBlanc asked. “Is that a permanent role, Paul, or is that just when they get a call?”

Village Mayor Paul Maroun said village police have to make patrols in the town, although it doesn’t have to be on a regular basis.

Resident Ron LaScala was at the meeting and also questioned the presence of village police cars in the town.

“I thought originally, Paul, that it was only supposed to be for emergencies, and that’s why we gave it to them for $25,000 a year,” LaScala said. “That’s a big sticking point with me because we pay a lot of money for that police department, and they’re on Pitchfork Pond Road on a regular basis, they’re down by the beach on a regular basis, and they’re not emergencies. So we’re paying for police coverage in a township, and the village taxpayers are footing the whole bill. Twenty-five thousand dollars doesn’t even cover the gas.”

Maroun and Trustee David “Haji” Maroun said they agreed with LaScala, but the mayor said his hands are tied by a statute.

“I’ll take it up with the chief and find out what we legally have to do,” the mayor said. “It’s more than just emergency calls. I don’t have the statute right with me, but it says there has to be some type of flow into the township. It doesn’t have to be continuous, but it has to be in there.”

In a phone interview with the Enterprise, state Division of Criminal Justice Services Director of Public Information Janine Kava said there is no state statute requiring a village police department to patrol the town in which it is located.

“If there is a shared services agreement, that would take precedent,” Kava said. “Municipalities have the ability to enter into shared services agreements and determine the terms of those agreements, and that’s enabled by general Municipal Law.”

According to the Agreement For Law Enforcement Services, which was signed by Paul Maroun and former town Supervisor Roger Amell on April 26, 2013, “The village and department shall provide law enforcement protection within the boundaries of the town. It is understood by all parties that routine patrol will primarily occur inside of the village.”

The resolution also states that the contract, which commenced Jan. 1, 2013, is good through 2017 and can be terminated by the town or the village so long as the terminating party informs the other party by Nov. 1 of the previous year.

Mayor Maroun said he’d be in contact with town Supervisor Patti Littlefield soon to discuss this and other matters, including waterfront rights at the Municipal Park and funding for the emergency services building.

The Enterprise contacted village police Chief Eric Proulx, who was on vacation the night of the meeting. Proulx said his officers do periodically travel through the town but not to do patrols. He said a statute in the state’s General Municipal Law says a police department that is contracted with a municipality must provide coverage to that entire municipality. In other words, the police department can’t pick and choose which areas of a town it will cover.

Proulx explained that there are several reasons town residents might see a village police car.

“I have an officer that lives in the area of the beach that’s in the town,” Proulx said. “That could be a reason why the car’s down there a lot. They are entitled to go home. I have another officer that lives in the Old Wawbeek Road area, and that’s in the town. They can take meal breaks at home. There’s 100 different answers I can give you for why they’ve been seen in the town.”

Some of those reasons also include responding to emergencies and assisting the state police.

“We rely on the state police, with our limited manpower, to assist us during major incidents or when we need backup,” Proulx said. “We do the same for them, when they have a trooper that’s alone in our area, they call for assistance and absolutely we go help them.”

Proulx added that he recently compared mileage and gas usage of police vehicles in 2012 to 2013’s numbers and found that it had decreased.

“I’m finding we’re spending a lot more time handling things in the station,” Proulx said. “The system has gotten where it involves more paperwork. This past year we’ve had many investigations that require time to be in the station. There are a number of different factors why that could be down, but it is down. To say we’re putting more milage and burning more gas since we entered into this contract, we’re absolutely not.”