TOWN OF JOHNSTOWN — Three new police academy graduates are joining ranks in the Fulton County’s labor-strapped Sheriff’s Department.
Upon exiting the Albany County Sheriff’s Office Academy earlier this week, 26-year-old Luther Goodrich, 35-year-old Amanda Meredith and 27-year-old Kalob Russell had completed 1,000 hours of training.
All three graduates carry prior experience working at the Fulton County jail. Meredith has the most seniority at the Town of Johnstown facility, having worked onsite for four years.
“They will help us restore some of our vacant positions and by hiring from the jail, they have experience dealing with individuals who are already in the criminal justice system,” said Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino.
It will take another two months before the Albany County graduates will be fully transitioned into the agency’s road patrol. Two more trainees are expected to graduate from Schenectady County’s academy in January.
Within the last two years, the number of open and unmanned positions in the agency increased. Additionally, less portions of the county are patrolled as a result of a policy enacted last fall requiring deputies to double up squad cars.
While staff shortages have been prevalent nationwide since the dawn of the COVID-19 pandemic due to morale stressors, retirement waves and overall labor strains, Giardino has previously contributed part of the situation to Fulton County losing payroll parity with similarly sized departments back in the mid-2000s.
Giardino, the Fulton County Deputy Sheriffs Police Benevolent Association and administrators have been in talks over contractual renewal terms throughout the summer.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Scott Horton referred public comments on the matter to county Administrator Jon Stead, who noted that a tentative agreement was reached recently. This will require a vote from the union and ratification from the county board in order to go into effect.
Details will not be available until after a final agreement is cemented.
“We’ve been working with the county to come up with some plans to beef up our road patrol and the county has been very supportive with trying to work towards doing something to help us pick up more individuals,” Giardino said. “We’ll see what that’ll bring to us in the next month or so.”
Giardino is uncertain whether four members of the department will retire this year or not. One corporal is currently out on medical leave.
Four vacant positions currently remain.
The county’s correctional division has also struggled maintaining staffers in recent years. Fulton County Sheriff’s Employees Alliance negotiators are looking for higher raises for senior employees in order to move closer toward parity with similarly sized counties.
Negotiations hit an impasse last year, eventually resulting in both parties agreeing to bring on a state-appointed fact finder, a mediation board tasked with establishing a non-binding resolution. That process was originally scheduled to begin in July, but has since been postponed, according to Stead.
Tyler A. McNeil can be reached at 518-395-3047 or [email protected]. Follow him on Facebook at Tyler A. McNeil, Daily Gazette or X @TylerAMcNeil.