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Several Massena Police Department retirements possible

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MASSENA — By spring, more than one-third of Massena’s police officers could have less than two years’ experience with the department, according to Chief Timmy J. Currier.

The village Board of Trustees voted unanimously last week to allow Mr. Currier to canvass to fill four positions. One was caused by a retirement earlier this year, while the other three are additional retirements which could take place early in 2013, Mr. Currier said.

Mr. Currier declined to say who in the department was considering retirement, but said the time between now and early next year will give him an opportunity to find candidates. The canvassing and interview process takes six to eight weeks, he said.

“If we’re going to fill some of these positions, I would need some lead time,” he told the village board on Tuesday.

The average amount of experience a Massena police officer has is 11.48 years, but that could drop to 8.13 in the next six months, Mr. Currier said. There are 21 full-time sworn officers in the department including Mr. Currier. By spring, there could be eight officers with less than two years of experience. The department already hired four patrolmen in 2012; two others hired in 2011 had worked for the village previously.

Mr. Currier attributed the turnover to a once-in-a-generation period of retirements en masse; a similar situation took place before he became chief in 1993, he said.

“When they get to those eligible years, if they’re in a position to move on, they’ll seriously take a look at it,” he said.

“If you look back 20 years ago, we had a number of retirements, ... which created a swing in the seniority,” Mr. Currier said. “We’re now reaching that plateau again.”

Mr. Currier said there are pros and cons to such a situation.

“We’ll get young very quickly,” he said. “Experience in this job is impossible to replace. You can only get experience by being on the job.”

Still, the police academy is training officers in new and different ways than it was a generation ago, he said.

“New employees bring new opportunities, a new way of looking at things,” he said, “Ultimately, we hope for a balance. This is a young person’s job. It’s a stressful job. It’s a challenging job on the streets.”

Mr. Currier said he hopes to hire a mix of recently trained and “lateral transfers,” officers who have previous experience in other departments. The police officers’ contract currently in mediation could determine whether the total number in the department will change when finalized, but Mr. Currier declined to mention whether that was an item under negotiation. He is making plans in the meantime to hire as many as the previous contract provided for.

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