GLOVERSVILLE – The Common Council voted 7-0 Tuesday night to renew the city’s resource officer contract with the Gloversville Enlarged School District for the 2022-23 school year.
The contract requires GESD to provide the city with $64,127 towards the cost of funding one police officer to provide security for the district’s school buildings, with the city picking up the rest of the cost.
A copy of the “Memorandum of Understanding” between the school district and the city was attached to the resolution within the council’s agenda packet. The memorandum included signature lines for GESD Superintendent David Halloran and Gloversville Police Captain Michael Garavelli.
Garavelli is GPD’s second-in-command behind Police Chief Anthony “Tony” Clay, who has been absent from the council’s meetings since earlier this month. Tuesday night Mayor Vince DeSantis and the city’s labor attorney Bryan Goldberger said Clay will be retiring Dec. 31, and that negotiations to determine his role in providing a smooth transition to the next chief between now and then were “ongoing.”
On Tuesday night, Garavelli gave the bi-monthly GPD police report to the council. He said GPD recently completed its “active shooter” training drills at the GESD, one of the components of the resource officer partnership between the school and the city. Active shooter drills help train students, school district staff and local law enforcement how best to respond in the event a deadly mass shooter gets inside a school building, as was the case in Uvalde, Texas on May 24 when a shooter killed 19 students, two teachers and injured approximately 17 others.
“The one school we did not get to was Park Terrace,” Garavelli said. “During the next school break, we’re looking to get in there and do some more training. We’ve trained in the high school, the middle school, Kingsborough Elementary School, McNab and Boulevard, with just about every officer we have.
Garavelli said GPD has a “go-bag” deployed in every police vehicle that includes a “swipe card and master keys.”
“So there will be no delay, in the event of an emergency at one of the schools,” he said. “And that’s (added to) our regular emergency equipment that we have in all of our patrol vehicles. Every vehicle is equipped with ballistic shields, breaching gear and all of that, so we’re looking to prevent any problem like they had in Texas.”
Garavelli said one of the biggest benefits of the active shooter drills to GPD is creating familiarity with the school building for officers.
“For most of my career here I’ve worked nights, so I was never in Kingsborough school, so when we trained in there, it was nice to get in there to actually see the layout of the school,” Garavelli said. “This gets our officers familiar, if there was ever a bad guy in a school, (enabling us to know) where to go. We (also) realized a lot of training limitations that we have, plus other things thay we’re working on with the school to bolster our radio communications. When you get into some of these buildings they’re like bunkers, you can’t get a signal out, so the school district is working with us to rectify that, so it’s been a good process, and we’d like to continue working on that.”
During his police report Garavelli also described the state of the GPD’s ongoing labor shortage. He said even though the department has about six new officers in various stages of field training, and another new officer set to graduate from the police academy Oct. 12, GPD is still down approximately seven officers, “a full platoon”, from the 37 officer positions included in the city’s 2022 budget.
Garavelli said GPD is rolling-out use of its newly purchased “PepperBall launching system”, a “less-than-lethal” tool enabling police to more safely subdue suspected criminals, with the goal of preventing the unnecessary use of deadly force.
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“We’re looking to change some of our supervisors (on the use of the PepperBall launcher), so we’re going to be short handed around here for probably the next three weeks,” he said.
Garavelli said GPD is looking to recruit “lateral candidates’ ‘ from other law enforcement agencies to help fill its police officer shortage, and develop “a kind of middle-bench of experienced officers’ ‘ to help fill-out the department. He said between 60 and 70 people took the most recent police officer civil service exam, so he’s hopeful GPD will get the lion’s share of however many people successfully pass both the written exam and the physical exam, which he said typically knocks out at least 60% of the applicants that pass the written exam.
“We have been working with some of our officers to do a (physical training) prep class, so some of the people who are interested in becoming officers are working with our officers to try to get them (to know) what to expect on the PT test and what to expect from the academy,” he said.
Second Ward Councilman Art Simonds asked Garavelli what the impact will be from the new officers completing their field training.
Garavelli said the new recruits are providing a needed “boost in the arm” for the department, enabling GPD detectives forced to do patrol duties to be redeployed to their regular assignments. He cautioned, however, that the increased staffing may not last for long.
“We’re still struggling to fill, just like every department in the country, and we still might lose more, unfortunately, the state police are going to come visiting again and probably take another couple of good guys from us,” Garavelli said.
“Let’s hope not,” Simonds said.
“But we can’t control that,” Garavelli said.