GovernmentThe Examiner

Questions Arise Over Mt. Kisco Community Resource Officer’s Role, Funding

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Concern over the future of the community resource officer and whether the village will continue to fund the Mount Kisco Arts Council dominated discussion at last week’s public hearing on the municipality’s proposed 2024-25 budget.

Speakers lined up during the first part of the hearing to urge Mayor Michael Cindrich and the Village Board not to cut the annual $10,000 contribution to the arts council, a notion that Cindrich dispelled as erroneous information after several speakers raised the issue.

However, the mayor acknowledged that the village was reviewing the role of the community resource officer just over two years after the previous board worked with the county to establish the position, first on a trial basis and then funded in the municipal budget over the last two budget cycles.

Cindrich said the role and responsibilities of the position were being looked at, not the performance of Officer Eddie Ramirez, a former member of the old Mount Kisco Police Department, who filled a similar position before the village opted to contract with the county Department of Public Safety for its police services in 2015.

With the roughly $250,000-a-year commitment from the village for the officer and the annual expenditure for police at about $7 million in the proposed $26.5 million budget, officials have a responsibility to review the position, Cindrich said, especially with their not having been a formal agreement in place for the position. The mayor also mentioned that he is trying to work with the county and the Bedford School District for a dedicated officer at least on a part-time basis for Mount Kisco Elementary School, but any officer for the school must be properly trained and vetted.

“It is not unreasonable to ask that we have some organizational control over where, when and how that officer is working, and this is not a referendum on the current officer,” said Cindrich, a retired career law enforcement officer. “There are things which I’m trying to accomplish with the school district to prevent the problems that have occurred nationwide, and me personally, I know a little bit about it, school resource officers in the past have been a dumping ground.”

The mayor said he was committed to having strong community policing where officers interact with the community, the most effective type of law enforcement.

The issue had also been raised at the previous hearing on Apr. 1 in support of keeping the community resource officer. Former Mount Kisco police chief Robert Dagostino, a longtime village resident, said last week he hoped the board would obtain the details about how much time the community resource officer is dedicated to work in Mount Kisco.

“I would ask when you did it, when you went with the county (police), that you drill down, seriously, to find out how much time the officer that will be filling this position is in the town,” Dagostino said.

Resident Alex Smoller said the community resource officer is a critical position in Mount Kisco because there are many people within the village who may not feel safe or may be hesitant in speaking up, particularly because of its large immigrant population.

“A lot of people who feel unsafe may not feel comfortable to step forward and that’s where the community resource officer comes in,” Smoller said. “So when this is debated and considered, I think a lot of people in the community would appreciate real consideration for that, and to really review what that position has done and what it could also do in the future.”

Cindrich said the community resource officer matter along with other outstanding issues in the budget is likely to come down to the Apr. 29 meeting, two days before the deadline for getting the next fiscal year’s budget in place.

“We’re going to continue to gather facts, we’re going to be talking to the hierarchy of the Westchester County police department,” Cindrich said. “We’re going to try and figure out what the board voted on (in 2022), and I may be speaking out of turn, but the reassignment of the community resource officer program was on the table before I assumed the position of mayor.”

Regarding the arts council funding, Deputy Mayor Theresa Flora appeared to take some of the responsibility for providing a false impression that the money was in question. As a new board member, she wanted the board to review all items, but pledged her support for what the group and its members bring to the village.

“I was merely asking a question, so I want everybody to understand if I ask a question, I’m not asking a question to say I want to cut this; I’m asking a question because I feel I need to learn, just so I can learn so when people ask me a question I can answer it,” Flora said.

The board was scheduled to discuss the budget again during its regular meeting Monday evening.


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