Public Reacts To Proposed Mount Kisco-County Police Merger

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Turnout was heavy for the presentation about the proposed Mount Kisco-Westchester County police consolidation.
Turnout was heavy for the presentation about the proposed Mount Kisco-Westchester County police consolidation. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. -- Public reactions from multiple viewpoints came at Monday’s meeting for the proposed police consolidation for Mount Kisco and Westchester County.

The merger agreement has some village police support.

Mount Kisco Sgt. Joseph Spinelli, who is president of the local PBA, endorsed the proposal on behalf of the union and its membership. He noted benefits for police that include better pay and benefits, along with greater opportunities for career advancement. Spinelli also supports the increase in staffing that the merger would entail, along with increased supervision of officers.

Mel Berger, a resident who is involved with the local drug and alcohol council, said he was “extremely happy” for the contract but had concerns including keeping relationships between people and officers, and about police involvement with the council.

County police officials cited examples from the Town of Ossining and the Town of Cortlandt, which also have county policing contracts.

George Longworth, who is commissioner for the Westchester County Department of Public Safety, noted that programs in Ossining remained in place and explained that any program working in Mount Kisco would be maintained. Another county police official noted involvement in a Cortlandt group. That organization is called the Cortlandt Community Coalition, which deals with underage drug and alcohol usage, according to the town’s website.

The merger plan also involves having officers in regular assignments, and county police officials denied that there would be frequent personnel turnover.

Addressing the issue of turnover, Longworth brought up how it can already happen with local police, citing retirement and injury examples.

“You get new police officers fairly routinely,” he said.
Resident Patric Kilkenny concurred with Berger’s continuity questions and wondered whether foot patrol in the village would be done by the county police. Longworth acknowledged that foot patrol has been done.

Several residents called for a referendum, including local police Lt. Louis Terlizzi, who grew up in the village and recalled that his heroes were Mount Kisco police.

Kim Terlizzi spoke in favor of a referendum, stating that residents are the “only factor in this equation that matters on whether or not something like this goes through.”  She also felt that the Village Board of Trustees has not been appreciative of the police department.

Officials believe that a referendum is not required, based on advice of legal counsel. Mayor Michael Cindrich was open to the possibility if there is public interest in doing so but does not prefer it because he feels that more delay will mean frustration for local police.

Beth Vetare Civitello felt went beyond whether or not a referendum is required and suggested it may be the right thing to do.

One resident who spoke voiced opposition to the merger because of the county police department being a larger organization, which concerned him about efficiency. During the presentation, it was disclosed that the county police department has about 270 sworn members and 70 civilian members. 

In an interview after the presentation, Cindrich was open to another public meeting being held.

Previous coverage regarding Monday’s merger presentation, including an overview of the proposal, is available here.

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Comments (2)

It was nice to see Commissioner George Longworth and members of his command staff answering questions and obviously enthusiastic and supportive of the prospect of joining our community. The proposal essentially provides an immediate increase in officers on the road by taking officers off desk duty and utilizing the staff of civilian dispatchers employed by the county police. By sharing resources not typically provided, the Village can get better police protection by the same officers for less money - millions less - over 5 years. The Village would need to hire 12 officers and purchase additional equipment to replicate the level of policing being proposed, and that would COST the Village additional millions per year.

Not mentioned in the article was that Police Officer Kevin Reilly, who lives in the Village, was present and gave a heartfelt assessment of the situation. Kevin’s mother and grandfather both served as Mt. Kisco Mayors and his family remains very active in town. Kevin supports the plan, noting that it’s not about “us”, but about those who will follow. Kevin pointed out that the County police officers who will be joining the Mt. Kisco officers are also residents, and Chief Inspector John Hodges taught him (and many other Mt. Kisco officers) in the academy some 27 years ago. It was a touching endorsement from a man whose mother, then Mayor Patricia Reilly, often clashed with then-trustee Mike Cindrich.

This bi-partisan agreement just makes too much sense not to go through.