During his first year as Homer Police Chief, Robert Pitman has worked on expanding community policing in the department, while also trying to set objectives and investigate a fatal fire in the village.
Pitman, who has worked in police departments for 25 year, was a part-time member at the Homer department before becoming chief. He started at the department right out of the academy and has worked three levels of law enforcement: county, city and village.
Pitman said community policing works best for the village and he wants residents to know the department’s officers. “Once they know the officers, the trust is there.”
Pitman has his officers in the department walk downtown Homer and visit with people and business owners. He also wants to reintroduce a bike patrol, he said. “It’s a great way for the community to interact with the officers.”
The department already has bikes, which are being inspected at Action Sports at 64 Pendleton St., Cortland, Pitman said. One officer at a time will be on bike patrol around the village. After losing certified bike patrol members, the department slowly moved away from the program, Pitman said.
However, through a recent program offered through the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, officers in the department will receive certification at little to no cost, Pitman said.
Pitman sees the bike patrol helping during community events like Magic on Main Street, the field days and parades.
The department is also working to establish an explorer program with the Boy Scouts of America, Pitman said. The program will introduce the department to children in the community by hosting presentations once a month at Homer Elementary School.
Pitman has also given two talks to the forensic class at the Homer High School.
Just after taking office on Jan. 1, 2016, Pitman started a list of objectives to complete before the end of the year. Which included establishing a Facebook page and implementing the use of an electronic evidence control system, among others. “Any administrator should have objectives they want to accomplish throughout the year.”
Pitman accomplished all objectives but the implementation of the electronic evidence control system, he said. The department has the system, which records evidence and police reports as opposed to using pen and paper, but has not begun to use it, he said. That’s on the list for this year.
On Jan. 26, Pitman honored his officers with an award ceremony, which he instituted this year, at the Homer Town Court. “I’m extremely pleased with the officers,” Pitman said. “It’s always good to recognize your officers’ work.”
Pitman praised his officers for how well they handled securing the scene and conducting initial interviews during a fatal fire early Sept. 2 on South Main Street.
The fire, which Pitman said was one of the worst incidents of his career, left 81-year-old Dewayne Block, dead. Police later charged Brian H. Bermudez, 39, with second-degree manslaughter, third-degree unlawful manufacturing of methamphetamine and second-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, all felonies.
He is accused of making meth, which is believed to have started a fire.
Pitman said that in July, before the fire, he wanted to host state police for a meth awareness presentation, but couldn’t get to it until two months after the fire.
State police talked to officers on what to look for, components used in making meth in the hopes of deterring another incident like the fire from happening again, Pitman said. “You can get everything you need to make meth at Walmart.”
Homer Village Mayor Genevieve Suits said she is pleased with the work Pitman is doing as chief. “He’s doing a phenomenal job.”