Mount Kisco has consented to an offer by Westchester County to study several scenarios for it to provide greater police services, among which would include full consolidation.
Mayor Michael Cindrich explained that the village was approached late last summer about doing a study. Village Manager James Palmer gave a written letter of consent to the county in early December on behalf of the Village Board of Trustees.
Cindrich believes that when given the chance to study possible cost savings, the opportunity should be taken.
“It was my opinion that we should look into this only for the reason that it would be irresponsible if somebody makes us an offer where they may provide us with services that would have to be equal or better to the services we have, at a cost benefit to the taxpayers.”
The study would also explore the cost benefits of Mount Kisco keeping its police department but having county police provide more services locally. Currently, Westchester County police give services that include criminal investigation, narcotics investigation, aviation, some traffic detail and mutual aid.
The study will look at a series of measures, including how each of the scenarios would impact response times, quality of services and availability of police to provide specialized detail. It would also look at changes in parking and traffic enforcement, crime prevention and having a liasion with community groups, according to Cindrich.
If the consolidation scenario were to take place, the county police would not provide a floating cohort of officers that causually stops by. Rather, county officers would be operating in Mount Kisco.
“If they were going to provide services, they wouldn’t just be doing a drive through," Cindrich said. "They’d be actually stationed here and their first responsibility would be the village.”
Recently, rumors have surfaced in the community that a county merger will occur, which is not the case.
Mount Kisco Police Chief Steven Anderson, who has been informed about the study plans, declined to comment. Kieran O'Leary, spokesman for the county police, acknowledged meetings with the county and local police but declined to comment further, referring questions to Cindrich and Palmer.
Maintaining a village police department is a major expense for Mount Kisco, the factor that is driving the interest in having a study done. In total, Cindrich said that it costs in excess of $6 million to have a police department. In contrast, several of Mount Kisco's neighbors to the north have part-time police departments and rely on supplemental support from state troopers.
Cindrich noted some of the possible benefits of a county merger, including more room for career advancement for police officers, and the fact that the scale of a larger department can help lessen the problem of overtime for absent personnel.
Law enforcement from the county level in absence of municipal police is not without precedent in this region. Last year, the Town of Ossining its police department with the county's through a 4-year, $2.3 million contract. Cortlandt also relies on the county police. In Putnam County, some towns do not have police departments, instead relying on the county sheriff.
In recent years, other municipalities have mulled disbanding their police departments and consolidation with the county, including Pleasantville and Sleepy Hollow, according to various media reports.
No timeline has been set for the study. Whether or not the village trustees accept any of the scenarios depends on both cost and whether an equal or greater level of service can be provided by the county, explained Cindrich.
If the village board takes interest in the findings, the matter would be discussed in a public forum, Cindrich explained. Additionally, input will be taken from Mount Kisco police.