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Village Board institutes some unwelcome MPD changes

"You always get resistance when you make change; nobody likes change, but sometimes change is necessary.” — Mayor Jenn Najdek

MILLERTON — The mayor and the Village Board have instituted a number of procedural changes within the part-time Millerton Police Department (MPD) in order to maximize efficiency, prevent overspending and improve safety for residents and visitors during busy weekend days when village streets are full of shoppers, diners and moviegoers. That’s according to Mayor Jenn Najdek, who explained the new move is for a one-month trial basis, to see if the strategy will be effective. If not, she said, she and her board members will be willing to reassess.

Mayor wants transparency

The mayor and Deputy Mayor Alicia Sartori met in mid-November with MPD Officer-in-Charge Mike Veeder and former Officer-in-Charge Dave Rudin, still active on the force, to discuss the changes they plan to institute in January.

In an interview with this newspaper on Friday, Dec. 17, Najdek said she is aware that change is rarely welcome. She also noted that as Millerton’s new mayor, it’s normal for her to want to make improvements, as she and her trustees believe they can strengthen the MPD and better daily life for the community-at-large.

“My job as mayor — is I want to do the best job I can for the community. I live here, I was born here, I was raised here and I will probably die here. That is my goal. I have no agenda,” she said. “My goal is simply to do the best job I can for the community. You always get resistance when you make change; nobody likes change, but sometimes change is necessary.”

New protocols

The main change made thus far, confirmed at Monday night’s Village Board meeting on Dec. 13, has to do with the MPD’s patrol schedule. Because of security concerns and not wanting to show the department’s hand, the mayor, those on the joint Millerton/North East Police Committee and Veeder asked the newspaper not to publish the specific details of the new schedule.

Suffice it to say the Village Board switched the patrol schedule to cover more daytime shifts. That’s when the mayor and her trustees believe having more officers on-hand will benefit people who patronize local businesses; can assist drivers who battle for limited parking and have frequent accidents while dealing with heavy, often commercial traffic; can assist the growing number of trail users on the popular Harlem Valley Rail Trail; and be present for the many locals and visitors who regularly take advantage of the numerous village and town resources throughout the year.

“So we’re trying to put patrols on when [it’s] most helpful in the community,” said Najdek, a fan of community policing. “We’re also trying not to add shifts because we want to keep our budget within our means.”

Yet those in the MPD have expressed concern that the change in shifts could leave the shifts now left unattended vulnerable. The mayor said if that turns out to be the case, she is more than willing to re-evaluate at month’s end.

Veeder weighs in

Officer-in-Charge Veeder said he thinks the move was a bad decision, and told the board as much at its meeting.

“Basically we need to have further conversation regarding the hours that they want us to work,” he said. “I’m concerned that we’re not on when there’s the highest level of call volume and the severity of calls is worse. My biggest concern is for public safety. There was no discussion about it, no one asked our opinion about it or anything.”

Najdek said Veeder had promised to bring a report with the most active call times to the Dec. 13 meeting, but failed to do so. Veeder said the county is still compiling the information, and he hopes to have it soon.

The mayor said if the call data shows “more serious level of calls coming in on particular times, [the board] will take another look.”

“It’s a work in progress,” said Najdek, adding much of it has to do with making sure the MPD doesn’t run over budget.

Veeder wasn't convinced.

“Since I have been running the department we have been under budget every single year. It’s not a budgetary thing at all.”

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