GENEVA — At one point in the not too distant past, the Geneva Police Department was nearly 10 officers shy of being fully staffed.
That number has come down somewhat, but Chief Jeff Trickler said he still has a ways to go before the department is up to its full roster of 36 officers. He believes that will happen eventually.
“We have about six vacancies now, and we have some officers out with long-term injuries. We were down nine at one time,” Trickler said. “We are able to fill three vacancies right now. However, if we are unable to find candidates that are qualified and meet the needs of the community and the department, I am not going to just hire a body to fill a position.”
The department recently put out a call for people who are currently employed as a state- certified officer, known as a lateral transfer. The department does get those from time to time, most recently Officer Ron Eveland (the son of retired Geneva PD Officer Ken Eveland), who was employed by the New York State Parks Police.
Many of the department’s officers are graduates of the Finger Lakes Law Enforcement Academy, which is run by the Ontario County Sheriff’s Office. That includes the Geneva PD’s newest officer, local native Dan Hickey, who is completing field training with a veteran officer.
Hiring an officer who is not a later transfer, however, is a long process that can take up to 18 months and involves taking a Civil Service exam. Trickler and his command staff do a preliminary interview, have the prospective officer do an agility test, then do a background check that includes interviewing family and neighbors.
An in-depth background check follows, then the candidate is interviewed again — if Trickler and his staff feel the candidate is a good fit for the department and community — and a contingency officer is made. The candidate then takes a polygraph test, and pyschological and medical exams.
“Then we make a final offer and they go to the academy,” Trickler said.
Trickler added that injuries in the line of duty, either long- or short-term, continually play into staffing issues. He said there is a chance the two officers out with long-term injuries, who he declined to name, may not return to work.
“We take steps to make sure our officers are properly equipped and are issued the proper gear to avoid situations like losing officers to injury, but it does happen. We have officers who have switched shifts and officers working overtime to make sure we have proper staffing on all shifts,” he said. “Every officer in this department has stepped up to the plate to make sure we are still providing the same services we have always provided to the community. I have seen that from the outset with this crew of officers. We are still doing investigations and making arrests. Everyone has pitched in.”
Trickler said many departments across the state and nation have vacancies, some due to anti-police sentiment seen across the country. Much of that is triggered by frequent news reports of questionable police behavior.
“This is not just a Geneva issue. Law enforcement is under the microscope nationwide,” he said. “Some people don’t want to be in that position. It’s certainly not the same as it was 20 years ago when I was a new officer.”
Trickler said the Geneva PD currently has three female officers, and he continues to try to diversify the force. That includes looking for minority officers, although he said that is difficult.
“We do actively seek minority applicants and later transfers, but we are competing with other departments trying to do the same,” he said. “There is interest, and I continue working with our community compact and looking for ways to be successful in that area.”
Trickler, who became the Geneva PD’s chief in 2011 and is now in his 22nd year with the department, has seen the vacancy issue many times.
“I remember one time we hired seven officers, about seven years ago. We are always going to have to fill positions due to retirements and such. There have been times we are fully staffed, and other times we are not,” he said. “The one thing I want to stress is we are still providing the same services as we always have and not cutting programs, but I made it known during the chief selection process that I was not just going to fill a position with anybody. If you don’t get the right candidate and it’s not the right fit for the community, you are going to have issues over the long run.”
“I also want to say that Geneva is a great community, and we have great support from that community for our officers, who I believe are doing a great job. The Geneva PD is a highly respected agency,” he added. “We are hiring people with local ties who want to stay here in this community.”