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East Syracuse residents vote down proposal to eliminate police force

Full-time East Syracuse Police Officer Salvatore Stassi advocates for saving the department during today’s vote.

Full-time East Syracuse Police Officer Salvatore Stassi advocates for saving the department during today’s vote. Photo by Ned Campbell.

— The Village of East Syracuse Police Department is here to stay.

East Syracuse residents voted 531-300 on the village board’s proposal to abolish the police department during a permissive referendum today from noon to 9 p.m., so the police force will continue to operate in its current form.

"It took a village to do this, and they did exactly what said they were going to do," said Kim O'Brien, chair of the Friends of East Syracuse Police group. "The residents are at ease now that they know they can keep their police department."

Eliminating the village police department would have resulted in $249 in taxpayer savings for a home assessed at $100,000, according to the Onondaga County Comptroller’s Office. The Town of DeWitt Police Department had agreed to bring on the village’s six full-time officers and add a post in the village under an enhanced-services contract between the two municipalities. That contract would have required the village to pay the town $400,000 a year for five years.

But O'Brien said that for many of the residents, it wasn't about the money.

"The people spoke at the polls, that's the bottom line," said Mayor Danny Liedka. The mayor said he put more than 1,000 personal hours into the proposal to eliminate the police force in an effort to keep taxes from rising.

"The problems will fall on the next administration, whoever that will be,” he said.

Because the referendum was voted down, the department's eight part-time police officers, clerk and police chief will keep their jobs. Liedka said the next order of business is to negotiate contracts with police department staff.

Police Chief Don Morris expressed his gratitude to all those who came out to vote, and especially those who showed their support for the police department.

"I appreciate every single vote and every person that came out," he said. "That's democracy at work, and that's what we're about. I appreciate the support we have in the community."

Today was his five-year anniversary as the village's police chief.

"I’ve always done whatever I could for the village and worked with the mayor and the elected officials to make sure that we put out a quality service, and we’ll continue to do that," he said.

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