SALLY SANTORA/For the County News
Avon’s interim police chief, James Noble.
Avon residents meet interim police chief
Village of Avon Mayor Tom Freeman brought in the Avon Police Department to meet with members of the community for the June 4 neighborhood meeting at the village hall. This was the first neighborhood forum devoted to police issues.
With the retirement of Police Chief James Carney and the appointment of Interim Police Chief James Noble, many residents had questions about what direction the village board was taking in terms of police coverage in the village. Freeman devoted the neighborhood meeting to answering their questions.
The Village of Avon maintains full time police coverage, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, to serve and protect its 3,350 residents, with a price tag of $600,000 to taxpayers, Freeman told the audience.
The department includes four full time officers (Sgt. Geer, Officers Ferrara, Jordan and McFadden, who is the Avon School Resource Officer) and four part time officers (Officers Bingham, Bihrle, Cole and Interim Chief Noble).
Some residents questioned the number of officers on the force, and the full time coverage, asking if it was necessary.
“We are down one full time officer from where we were. We’re always looking at the dollars and sense and for ways to keep costs down,” Freeman said. “We’ve had 24/7 coverage for the past 16 years that I’ve been on this board. We’re Avon, and we pay for this special privilege,” he added.
The mayor introduced the newly appointed Interim Police Chief James Noble, a 23-year veteran and retired lieutenant from the Rochester Police Department where he served as commanding officer of the field investigations section.
He holds a Masters Degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Keuka College. As a retiree collecting benefits through the state system, Noble is limited in the amount of salary he can earn and still collect retirement. Freeman said the board is looking at a number of ways to address that, including possibly assigning administrative duties only to the position.
Noble spent the next hour telling residents about the role his department plays in public safety and community service. He began by introducing Sergeant Joe Geer and the other officers on the force. Geer supervises and schedules the officers, reviews reports, supervises investigations and acts as the department’s evidence technician and property clerk in addition to his primary role on road patrol.
“Sergeant Geer is an important part of the department’s management team and assumes the duties of the chief in my absence,” Noble commented.
The interim chief continued a productive conversation with the residents about what services the police department routinely performs.
It’s estimated that 80 percent of their time is spent providing services to the public (not crime issues), community policing, including property checks, answering nuisance-type calls, traffic enforcement, in addition to answering 911 calls such as domestic violence issues and drug arrests. Night calls, though fewer in number, are often the most serious calls for assistance, the police said.
“You do have some crime (in the Village of Avon). The presence of police officers limits crime here,” Noble told the residents.
There were numerous comments from the residents in favor and appreciative of the full time police presence while a number of others wanted to know if the department could develop a better method of communication so that the public could be informed about their activity.
Noble said that was a reasonable request and he vowed to look into it. One resident suggested that the board use evidence-based data in determining the size of the police department. This type of data uses population and a number of other criteria to determine police staffing and costs.
The chief explained the role of the School Resource Officer, who works 180 days a year at the Avon Central School District and returns to the officer rotation during the summer months. The SRO salary is funded in part by a county grant and Town of Avon.
He also said that the part time officers are experienced, many coming from other law enforcement agencies, and that their experience is valuable to the younger officers on the force. The part time officers also allow better flexibility in scheduling, especially in terms of vacation time of the full time officers, the chief reported.
Several residents expressed their appreciation of the full time police presence in their village and in particular, the chief’s efforts to develop a rotating schedule that says within the allotted budget.
Throughout the neighborhood meeting, Noble reminded residents of his availability to talk with them about any issues and answer any questions they have. He handed out his email and the Avon PD office number.
The neighborhood meetings are popular, said Freeman, and the attendance and two-way discussion at this meeting, is evidence that residents appreciate the opportunity to communicate with their local public servants.