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State attorney general's office says village needs a police chief

— The village of Skaneateles must employ a police chief and cannot eliminate the position in favor of an “officer in charge.”

This is the opinion of the state attorney general’s office in response to a query by the village board on the subject.

Based on village law, “the village must employ a police chief as long as it continues to have a police department,” and relevant civil service statutes and AG opinions do not “compel a different conclusion,” wrote Kathryn Sheingold, assistant solicitor general in charge of the opinions, in a Sept. 6 letter to Village Attorney Michael J. Byrne.

The opinion was in response to a July 9 letter sent by Byrne asking whether the village must maintain the position of village police chief after the retirement of current Chief Lloyd Perkins at the end of this year.

Perkins announced in late April his intention to retire. The village board announced in late June they were considering not hiring a new chief of police, but instead having an “officer in charge” of the department, most likely current Sgt. Marty Stevens. Stevens would do the same jobs as Perkins but his salary and benefits would remain at his current level, which would save the village money. The trustees believed this would be a prudent move considering the village, and the police department, are so small.

In researching the issue, however, Byrne determined that there was “an apparent conflict” between state civil service law and a prior AG opinion on the subject, and so the trustees decided to ask the state AG for an advisory opinion.

The civil service law states that a municipality with 150,000 residents or less with more than four full-time police officers must maintain a chief of police. Skaneateles has 2,700 residents and three full-time officers, and therefore would seem to not require a police chief, Byrne wrote.

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