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Petition seeks end to Norfolk police force


NORFOLK — Residents are trying, again, to hold a referendum about the town's police force.

There have been at least two efforts in the past to get rid of the force; a referendum a few years ago failed, according to Chief Scott Bennett. Another petition last year was not given to the town clerk early enough to make the November ballot.

The current petition has not been handed in, according to town officials, but there is still plenty of time to meet the deadline of three months before an election. There are approximately 100 signatures on the petition so far, according to John Barren, a town resident.

The police department isn't worried, yet, that the issue may get on the ballot.

"Once I know if this is really going to happen, I will start pushing it and building support," Mr. Bennett said. "We've got a year to sort this out."

The town has had its own police department since the 1970s. Since the state police set up a barracks in the 1980s, there has been debate about whether two forces are necessary in the town.

Neither force is full-time. The Norfolk department has eight part-time officers who together log 48 hours a week. The troopers usually are not in until evenings.

"A lot of people see the troop cars, they are stationed there, but (the officers) are not there often," Mr. Bennett said. "There are four troopers that do work out of there. It's hit or miss whether they're on or not."

Last year, the town police responded to 1,500 complaints, and the Norfolk Town Court is the second-busiest court in St. Lawrence County, according to town officials. There are 35 courts in the county.

With budget cuts looming across the state and county, this may not be the right time to eliminate the town's force, Mr. Bennett said.

"In the town, it would benefit the taxpayers to have their own department," he said. "Rather than wait for a trooper or a sheriff's deputy, we could be right there."

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