By RUSSELL JONES
PROCTOR — Rutland County Sheriff Stephen Bernard visited the Proctor Selectboard to answer questions regarding his department’s policing of the town and address any concerns.
The selectboard has previously said they wanted to look into options regarding the town’s policing before the budget is set for next year. To that end, two members of the board visited the Pittsford Selectboard on Oct. 16 to discuss what options may be open to them with contracting services from the Pittsford Police department.
Currently, the Rutland County Sherriff’s Department has a combined patrol contract with the town to provide 40 hours of patrol a week with a car in town and 40 additional hours where a deputy would respond from patrol in West Rutland.
“There are occasions where we are a few hours short in one town or the other,” said Bernard, “but we balance that out over time with directed patrols.”
Bernard said he watched the previous Proctor and Pittsford Selectboard meetings and wanted to address concerns the board had with his department.
“We are a vendor of police services first, you guys are the customer,” Bernard said. “We can modify the contract to provide you whatever amount of services you want if we have communication about that.”
One of the issues was about a deputy serving a restraining order when they were assigned to be on patrol.
“If we get notified of a restraining order, it’s our responsibility to take care of that right then, we can’t let that wait until tomorrow,” he said. “It’s not a civil process that we get paid extra for, that’s double dipping and it’s unethical to do that while also charging for patrols.”
There were also questions about what deputies are doing with trucks that come through town illegally while headed to OMYA in Pittsford, despite the No Thru Trucks signs in town.
Bernard said that most times if the trucks are just looking for a place to turn around and have not passed the first turn, his officers will not ticket them. If they are looking for a shortcut to OMYA, then they will write them a ticket. In the end, it comes down to a judgment call from the deputy at the time.
“It’s hard to tell an officer that this will happen every time,” Bernard said. “They have to have some discretion because they are the ones out there dealing with these people.”
Anther issue the board had questions about was that residents complained that the sheriff’s deputies spent quite a bit of time parked in front of Lafonds Auto.
“According to the logs, we have spent 336 hours in Proctor since Sept. 1,” Bernard said. “Six of those have been logged at Lafonds.”
Bernard explained that the location of Lafonds gave deputies a strategic vantage point to see every car that came through the town.
“The contract and cooperative patrols have been the same for a long, long time,” he said. “If you want us to sit down with the board, we can figure out what shifts work for you.”
Board members did suggest they would like to see more deputies in town earlier in the morning while folks are taking children to school, as the current schedule does not have officers in town until 8 a.m. when school starts at 7:30. The board did not want to get too involved in scheduling the officers, however.
“I personally don’t want to set their schedules because that is their job and I don’t know how to do it,” said board member Judy Frazier.
“I would suggest that the board appoint one member to be the direct contact with the deputies that patrol here, so we have open communication,” Bernard said. “I would also suggest you come out and ride with them, so you can see what they do.”
The board will continue to mull over their options before the budget is set in the next few weeks.