By Kevin Limiti • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
The Otsego County Sheriff’s office is having difficulty staffing and retaining deputies and corrections officers, a problem Sheriff Richard Devlin blames on low pay, excessive overtime, and what he calls “a lack of support” from the county.
Currently, there are 11 open positions for corrections officers at the Otsego County Jail in Cooperstown, which Sheriff Devlin says causes health issues for its officers required to work longer shifts, and problems with the upkeep at the facility itself.
“If you have a person working a 16-hour shift they’re not as fresh as someone working an eight-hour shift,” Sheriff Devlin told The Freeman’s Journal/Hometown Oneonta. “There needs to be interest from the County Board to see these problems.”
During an Otsego County Board of Representatives budget workshop on November 29, Sheriff Devlin said that overtime pay would “drop dramatically” if he were able to fill the now-open positions. The Sheriff posted to social media a graphic outlining his concerns about deputy sheriff pay, corrections officer overtime, and survey results asserting some 99 percent of sheriff’s office employees believe they get no support from the Otsego County Board of Representatives.
“I’m up to a point where the county is not listening to me, they’re not listening to their other employees, maybe they’ll listen to their constituents,” Sheriff Devlin said on the Facebook post.
Sheriff Devlin said some representatives have visited the Otsego County Jail but that it didn’t “seem to get any action.”
At the Monday budget session, Sheriff Devlin told Board Representative Clark Oliver (D-Oneonta) that staffing shortages require his office to operate in violation of regulations established by the New York State Commission on Corrections. According to the Sheriff, the rules require him to fill 22 posts each day.
“We’re filling every position as required, but we have to do it through overtime,” he said. “That’s where the violations come in.”
According to sheriff they’re supposed to fill 22 posts per day; they are; violations through overtime. New York State Commission on Corrections.
He said Otsego County can improve conditions through better communications and by creating a plan to better staff the positions now left open.
“We can’t be doing this year after year and not address this,” he said. “We need a plan in place.”
County Board Representative Danny Lapin (D-Oneonta) acknowledged the Department’s staff shortage.
“That has been a long-standing problem,” Rep. Lapin said to The Freeman’s Journal/Hometown Oneonta. “The County is working on addressing the situation. There’s merit in the Sheriff’s arguments.”
Rep. Lapin said the Sheriff “does a great job in providing necessary information” to the County Board. The problem, he said, was indicative of not having enough tax revenue to pay for essential services.
“I wouldn’t support any budget that doesn’t provide an adequate raise for corrections officers,” Rep. Lapin said, calling it a “Republican-on-Republican issue” and opining that there was “a lot of misinformation about Democrats not funding important services” such as law enforcement.
“I think there needs to be a lot of education and outreach,” he said. “People need to understand where the Sheriff’s funding comes from. I, for one, will gladly pay more to fund law enforcement.”
“There are real consequences for what happens when we keep our taxes down.,” he said “It becomes really hard to fund the public services we need and that we depend on.”