JAMESTOWN – Jamestown Public Safety Director and Police Chief Harry Snellings says recent comments made by the Town of Ellicott Supervisor regarding a supposed mutual aid policy in the city of Jamestown was out of line and untrue.
Snellings is responding to a comment Town of Ellicott Supervisor Patrick McLaughlin made near the conclusion of the annexation public hearing that took place Monday night in Falconer.
During the hearing – which was held to provide information and allow the public to comment on the proposed annexation of the BPU Dow St. Substation in Falconer/Town of Ellicott by the city of Jamestown – McLaughlin spoke out against what he felt was a disparity between the amount of assistance Ellicott Police patrols provide within the city, compared to the amount of assistance Jamestown Police patrols provide in the town. As part of those comments, he mentioned a supposed policy currently in place in Jamestown.
“I was just informed not that long ago that basically there’s a long standing policy in the city of Jamestown that their police department will answer, back up, or let’s call it outside assistance calls in cases of extreme emergency. They do not have a practice of regularly responding to back up calls,” McLaughlin said. “The Town of Ellicott, since 2012, as stated, has responded to 702 back up calls into the city. Let me make that a little bit clearer – that’s once every three days. Most of them are in the evening.”
“The Town of Ellicott, yes, we are small,” McLaughlin continued. “In the evening we will have two cars covering the town of Ellicott. Many cases, both of those cars respond to the city, leaving us short. Now, as Town Supervisor, maybe I need to look at our policy of responding to back up calls.”
The comment was part of the larger conversation regarding the annexation being in the public interest. The city of Jamestown is arguing that public safety for the property would improve if it was in the city’s jurisdiction because the city has a larger police force, along with a professional fire department.
Following McLaughlin’s comments, WRFA reached out to Snellings for confirmation on the supposed policy that was being cited. In response, the Jamestown Police Chief provided the following statement:
I have worked in this department since 1996 and there has never been a standing policy that we will not answer a REQUEST for backup outside the City. I have been the Chief since July of 2010 and have never issued such an order.
The Town Supervisor’s comments are out of line and untrue. I have never denied a request that has come directly to me and I am unaware of any requests fielded by a shift commander that has gone unanswered. Mr. McLaughlin was obviously misinformed and lacks the understanding of what mutual aid actually is. There are potential legal concerns when going outside your jurisdiction to engage in law enforcement activities. The REQUEST must be there. I would expect that an elected official would at least take the time to verify such a statement. Mr. McLaughlin has never taken the time to ask me if this was true, what our policy actually is, or to convey any concerns he may have.
I have no doubt that Ellicott PD has been in the City more times than we have gone into their jurisdiction. What I do question is the accuracy of the numbers presented by the Town Supervisor. How many incidents were the Ellicott officers actually REQUESTED to respond versus how many times they responded on their own. I have no problem with that neither does Chief [William] Ohnmeiss.
We have an outstanding relationship with the Ellicott Police Department and I am very grateful of the support we receive from them. To insinuate that we do not reciprocate is insulting. What I found disturbing is the fact that he openly stated he was willing to deny public safety assistance because of the annexation. Is this why he eliminated a full time position within the EPD resulting in the loss of their full time drug investigator in our drug task force???
In addition to his statement, Chief Snellings provided WRFA with a copy of Jamestown’s mutual aid policy, which has been in existence since May of 1990. The full policy can be found here.
As Snellings noted, the question regarding the Ellicott Police responding to 702 incidents in Jamestown since 2012 is how often was their assistance requested by Jamestown Police, compared to how often they were simply in the vicinity when the call came in and acted on their own to provide assistance.
The city of Jamestown lies within the southern half of the Town of Ellicott and was part of the town until it’s incorporation as a city in 1887. Due to the city’s location, Ellicott police must travel within the city several times during a patrol shift in order to get from the West side of the town (West Ellicott and the village of Celoron) to the east side of the town (Falconer). Ellicott officers also must travel through the city in order to get from West Ellicott to the northern half of the town.
Chief Snellings also notes that while Ellicott police patrols may provide assistance in Jamestown, the Jamestown Police actually provide crime investigators for Ellicott, especially as it pertains to drug investigations via the Jamestown Metro Drug Task Force. A portion of the funding for the investigators comes from state and federal grants, but the investigators themselves are employed by and receive benefits via the city of Jamestown. Ellicott recently eliminated an investigator position from its police budget.
When WRFA brought this point up to McLaughlin following the conclusion of the annexation hearing, McLaughlin said, “I’m not talking to the Metro Drug Task Force. Obviously they do a great deal for everybody in the area. I’m talking about the average patrolman out on the street.”
Back to McLaughlin’s initial comment about looking into a policy that would reduce the amount of mutual aid Ellicott provides in Jamestown, he said that any such proposal would first be discussed with Ellicott Police Chief William Ohnmeiss.
“I don’t tell my police chief how to run his department. If in fact they do make those calls, my concern is that it cuts the Town of Ellicott short on the pople they have protecting our citizens,” McLaughlin said, adding, “But I would talk to the chief. I would never make that decision without his input.”