December 1, 2021

City police get OK to add officer

Bob Ellis/staff photographer

Cortland Police Officer Melissa Eccleston walks along Main Street during her shift Tuesday afternoon. The Cortland Common Council on Tuesday approved the acceptance of $125,000 in federal funding for the city police department that will allow it to appoint a new community police officer and to hire a new officer.

Members of the city Common Council unanimously approved allowing the Cortland Police Department to accept $125,000 in federal funding that will allow it to appoint a new community police officer and to hire a new officer to the force.

Last month, it was announced the city had been awarded the funding through the federal Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Hiring Grant program.

The vote means the Cortland Police Department can now begin interviewing any veteran police officers who express interest in the job and the funding will offset the cost of hiring a new officer to replace whoever is selected.

The community police officer will patrol downtown by foot and attend various community events such as neighborhood watch group meetings and the regular meetings of the various city agencies.

The city was one of only two municipalities in the state to receive the grant funding. The Middletown Police Department in Orange County was awarded a $500,000 grant through the program.

Mayor Brian Tobin noted how well the public has received officers who have been patrolling downtown in recent months, and some aldermen said they were excited to know the position will be filled for a long time.

Garry Van Gorder, executive director of the Cortland County Business Development Corp. and Industrial Development Agency, attended the meeting and voiced his support for the community officer position.

“We’ve worked in concert with … the city for a number of years with respect to downtown revitalization,” he said. “One of the key elements to that is public safety. The residents … are going to be appreciative of a community policing effort on Main Street.”

The grant lowers the approximate cost of hiring an officer from more than $77,800 to just over $21,000 annually during the four-year course of the grant.

According to the terms of the grant, the funding will only cover the costs associated with hiring a new officer for the first three years while it will be up to the city to cover the costs of the fourth year.

Alderman Adam Megivern (R-7th Ward) noted during the meeting the $21,000 would likely be covered by SUNY impact aid this year, the one time allocation of $200,000 in state aid earlier this year to offset taxes in the city in return for hosting SUNY Cortland.

Police Chief F. Michael Catalano said during the meeting there is no date set for when the community officer will be hired or when the new officer would join the force, given the interview processes for both positions are expected to take some time.