Legislation would let retired state troopers be village police

SARANAC LAKE — A bill working its way through the state Legislature could potentially save time and money for the Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake or Malone village police departments by allowing the expedited hiring of retired state troopers to work as part-time police officers.

Saranac Lake village police Chief Charles Potthast — a retired state trooper himself — said the legislation could save the departments thousands of dollars but would not necessarily mean there would be immediate access to retired state troopers. Just because someone is retired and suddenly able to work part-time does not mean he or she would.

“It’s a personal decision,” Potthast said.

Village police officers are usually trained through municipal academies and then, once they pass, brought to the police department for field training. The whole process of getting someone trained and working full-time can cost between $6,000 and $10,000 and take the better part of a year. A retired state trooper, meanwhile, already has the knowledge and experience, and would need only around two to three weeks to become acclimated to the community and the system.

Potthast said it would also save departments on overtime. Other departments that are understaffed tend to rack up overtime hours that cost taxpayers a lot of money. The Tupper Lake Police Department has nine employees, whereas the Saranac Lake Police Department currently employs 12, including Potthast. This lets Potthast balance out the overtime so it’s not going over the department’s budget, but he said that could change if someone retires or is injured.

If someone retires from the State Police, however, how willing would they be to return to a beat? Would they want to work more?

“We’re going to have to see how this works out,” Potthast said.

The legislation passed through the state Senate last week and awaits approval from the Assembly and a signature from the governor. There is less than a week left in this year’s legislative session.