Sep 05, 2012 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
Having served as Liverpool’s chief of Police for more than eight years, Don Morris resigned from the LPD in 2007 to take over as chief of the East Syracuse Police Department. On Aug. 31, Morris returned to Liverpool as its part-time chief replacing Chief Bill Becker.
Four months ago, when Becker’s contract was due to expire at the end of May, the Liverpool Village Board of Trustees informed him that his contract would be extended through the end of August.
“Earlier this year we were looking into ways to save money as a result of the loss we took on the [county] sales-tax issue,” said Liverpool Mayor Gary White. “We began exploring the possibility of entering into a shared-services agreement with a nearby municipality regarding the administration of the village’s police force.”
White contacted Morris, whose future in East Syracuse is cloudy at best. A public referendum will be conducted in October so that village’s residents can decide whether to merge with the town of DeWitt police.
“Right now, the voters I’ve talked to seem adamantly against [the merger],” said East Syracuse Mayor Danny Liedka. If those voters approve the merger with DeWitt, however, Morris could be out of a job entirely.
“Because of what’s happening in East Syracuse,” White said, “It seemed like a logical fit to ask Don to work for us again part time.” Morris agreed to do it.
“Gary [White] and the village were always good to me,” Morris said Monday. “So it’s kind of like coming home.” Morris, 49, lives in Baldwinsville with his wife and three children.
Morris will continue as East Syracuse’s full-time chief, putting in eight hours five days a week there and four hours daily in Liverpool.
“This is a trial balloon,” White said. “A lot of things are still up in the air.”
The informal shared-services arrangement will be effective through Dec. 31, during which time village attorneys for both villages will determine if a formal inter-municipal agreement is necessary.
“Danny Leidka is supportive,” White said. “East Syracuse is totally on board with this, and all of our board members are in agreement.”
Liedka said, “We’re glad to have the chance to work with Liverpool like this, moving forward to share services.”
The village of Liverpool could see savings of more than $45,000 annually if this arrangement becomes permanent, said White who is a retired Syracuse Police Department deputy chief who oversaw general services, records keeping and briefly helmed the uniform bureau.
Chief Don Morris will be working at the Liverpool Police Department headquartered at 310 Sycamore St. from 3:15 to 7:15 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, and from 7 to 11 a.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
This schedule will be subject to change according to the needs of either the Liverpool or East Syracuse police departments.
The Liverpool department presently has a chief, one sergeant, three full-time police officers, seven part-time police officers, one civilian employee and several part-time crossing guards. The department is the primary law enforcement agency that patrols the .08 square miles or more than 16 miles of roadway in the village.
East Syracuse has a chief, two sergeants, four full-time officers, eight part-timers and one civilian dispatcher-aide. While East Syracuse’s population of 3,178 slightly out-numbers Liverpool’s population of 2,505, but East Syracuse’s crime statistics are nearly double those here, Morris said.
“We know that to save money, we have to do things creatively, things like sharing services,” White said. “During this four-month trial period we’ll have an experienced chief who knows the department. This is something we want to try.”
Having worked as Liverpool’s top lawman for the better part of a decade, Morris said he feels an obligation to the LPD. “I want to make sure things are working well there,” said Morris, who is the son of a New York City police detective.
Becker, Liverpool’s outgoing chief understands the situation, White said.
“Bill has been very professional during this transition,” the mayor said. “He knows the losses we sustained” when the county rescinded its longstanding sales-tax revenue-sharing agreement with towns and villages two years ago. “Bill has excelled as chief here,” White added, “and we’ll help him to adjust in any way we can.”
With careers dating back to the early-1980s, both Becker and Morris already qualify for state pensions. Becker, who lives in Manlius, suspended his $2,681-a-month pension check in order to keep working, according to the state comptroller’s office. Morris, on the other hand, secured a waiver from the state retirement system in order to continue earning a chief’s salary while simultaneously collecting a $30,000 annual state pension. His job in East Syracuse pays about $77,000. Some two dozen police chiefs across New York state are working under such waivers.
Becker was paid $68,000 in his first year as Liverpool’s chief.
Both Liverpool and East Syracuse officials have approved Morris’s new schedule, White said, while implementing procedures to assure each municipality will be well-served.
“We want to avoid any appearance of impropriety,” the Liverpool mayor said. “We’re keeping everything all above-board and transparent. Don has agreed to punch time clocks in both departments, and his work schedule arranged on his contract.” In short, White said, “We addressed the accountability factor.”