October 26, 2021

Local law enforcement puts focus on community

Homer Village Police Department Sgt. R.J. Eckard, left, and Polic Officer Matt Compton patrol historic Main Street on Monday afternoon.

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

Homer Village Police Department Sgt. R.J. Eckard, left, and Polic Officer Matt Compton patrol historic Main Street on Monday afternoon.

In light of the recent attacks on police officers in Dallas, Texas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, local law enforcement agencies from the city, Homer and Dryden say they are not making specific changes but are keeping up with community policing efforts they have enacted.

The measures are all an attempt to improve relations between police and residents, an effort to bring out a human side sometimes lost in the perception of law enforcement.

“The department has a benefit of being a small department in a small city,” said city Police Chief F. Michael Catalano. “The officers know the city and its people.”

With prior staffing difficulties ,the city police department found it difficult in the past to have beat officers, Catalano said.

Now, however, the city police have officers dedicated to walking a beat post on Main Street a couple of hours a day Monday through Friday, Catalano said.
This gets the officers on Main street and talking to people, he said.

Another effort the city has made is add officers to a bike patrol, Catalano said. “Officers go to all the parks in the city and chat with the kids and anybody there.”

The department also has a school resource officer who, during the summer, holds a Junior Police Academy for local students.

The academy begins July 25, Catalano said.

One new community effort the department is exploring is a grant to hire a new officer solely for these community oriented policing programs, Catalano said.

In light of the recent shootings of officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Catalano says the department does not plan to readjust its current efforts. “It’s just a matter of being more diligent and aware,” Catalano said.

Homer Police Chief Robert Pitman also does not plan to change the current efforts of his department.

However, he said, officers always have to be aware of the risks of the job.

“You can’t become complacent to the fact of a small community,” he said. “The community is on (Interstate) 81, (and Routes) 281 and 90 and you can’t have the mindset that it won’t happen.”

Officers with the Homer department also do a bit of community policing. One thing the officers do are vacant house checks, Pitman said. They also walk downtown and talk with business owners. This helps with preventive measures, Pitman said.

The department also participates in Holiday in Homer, where they walk the grounds and visit with the community, Pitman said. “I encourage the officers to get to know people,” he said.

Pitman also said he encourages officers on the day shift patrol to stop and talk to members of the community.

The Homer department also has two school resource officers active in the school, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon, Pitman said.

They offer a ride-along program for students and three times this past year Pitman has spoken to the school’s forensics class.

These activities help the kids become familiar with the officers. “It lets them know we’re human too,” Pitman said.

As far as new community efforts go, Pitman says the department is looking toward one.

The department has been working closely with the Boy Scouts, he said. It’s for their Junior Explorers program, which will have officers working closely with the troop, Pitman said.

As far as new programs in Dryden, Dryden Village Police Chief Randy Mack has had a new neighborhood watch plan in mind. “I’ve tossed around the idea of a neighborhood watch,” he said. The plan is in the research phase, Mack said.

Right now, the department participates in Dryden Dairy Days and the Memorial Day Parade, Mack said.

The officers also participate in the bike safety demonstrations and the mock DWI accident at the High School, Mack said.

While on patrol, officers make the effort every day to stop during patrols and visit with the community, Mack said. “We’re aren’t here only to enforce the laws, but to also help people with the use of our resources,” he said.

As far as making it safer for officers, Mack said there is no plan for change at the moment.

“At this point we’re involved with extensive training with the Ithaca police and there is no need to implement anything to change,” Mack said.

The Cortland County Sheriff’s Office and the state police could not be reached for comment by this morning.