The Randolph Police Department, which saw all but one of its officers exit in the past month or two, is now being staffed largely by personnel from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD).
In a contractual arrangement recently finalized with the town, OCSD has agreed to provide 105 hours of policing services weekly, with 25 of those hours in a supervisory capacity, and the balance for patrols.
That’s for the next month or two. According to OCSD Sheriff Bill Bohnyak, he and Town Manager Adolfo Bailon hope that it will be possible to eliminate the supervisory position of 25 hours, once a chain of command is established, and RPD’s and OCSD’s systems are coordinated.
That means that RPD, recently staffed with five, full-time officers, for a total of 200 hours, would be down to half as many.
This week, Bailon said the six-month, $100,000 contract was designed to give an ad hoc police district evaluation committee, recently appointed by the Randolph Selectboard, time to examine options for structuring the PD in the future.
Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies Capt. Kyle Kapitanski, Lt. Scott Clouatre, and Sgt. Jon-Miguel Bariteau will be regulars in the Randolph Police Department. (Herald / Tim Calabro)
The contract with OCSD runs through the end of the year, he added, with an “understanding,” that either party can back out of it with 30 days’ notice. Bailon said the ad hoc committee is charged “with investigating possible options and performing research” on policing options, with his office assisting in the work.
The committee has two selectboard members: Larry Satcowitz and Matt Fordham; and four citizen representatives: George Gray, Carolyn Lumbra, Kelly Green, John Lutz. Half of these folks live in the police district and half live (or, in one case, has a business located) outside of the PD district. Bailon is also a member.
According to Bailon, the committee will hold public hearings and seek “a lot of input from the town,” before making any recommendations to the selectboard on how to proceed. Ultimately, the decision will be up to the board.
Option on Trial?
One possible future for the PD, Bailon suggested, would be pretty much what is in place now—a town police station staffed via a contract with OCSD.
Bailon said the annual budget for the PD, which provides policing of just the village district, has been running around $595,000. He estimated that a full-year contract with OCSD, comparable to the one in place now, might total $210,000 or so.
In addition to the new contract with OCSD, the town also routinely contracts with OCSD to patrol sections of the town outside the police district;, Those areas are also covered by Vermont State Police.
Bailon defended the reduced schedule at RPD under the new contract, stating that “coverage is very comparable to what was before.”
The schedule was created, he said, “after looking through data and reports with Loretta Stalnaker (who just left RPD to become Royalton’s chief of police) and the Sheriff’s Department.
“It’s more strategic with schedules and shifts,” Bailon said. “Even though there are technically fewer officers patrolling, it is a much more efficient patrolling schedule.”
The four new OCSD employees— Capt. Kyle Kapitanski, Lt. Scott Clouatre; Sgt. Jon-Miguel Bariteau, Deputy Will Pine, and, on occasion, Sheriff Bill Bohnyak himself—are working along with RPD’s one remaining, full-time employee, Officer Matt Chin. Both Kapitanski and Clouatre have worked at RPD in the past.
For now, the contract has Kapitanski and Bohnyak sharing the 25 hours of supervisory duties, with Clouatre as a full-time officer, and Bariteau and Pine each half-time for RPD and half for OCSD.
When, in a month or two, the 25 hours of supervisory services are ended, Lt. Clouatre, who worked 13 years at RPD, will step up to supervise the department, as well as continue patrol duties, Sheriff Bohnyak said.
At the station last Thursday, Kapitanski explained that extra hours have been needed in the station to align systems. One wrinkle, for example, is that RPD and OCSD use different reporting systems.
Meanwhile, in Chelsea
How is the Orange County Sheriff’s Department coping with the sudden loss of 105 hours of experienced law enforcement officers each week?
Sheriff Bohnyak conceded there is a little bit of a pinch. The department is advertising for two full-time deputies, he said, and Bohnyak himself is stepping up to do some contracted patrol work.
Several adjustments have had to be made, he said, to ensure that OCSD can deliver on its contracts to perform traffic control and security patrols, for highway work sites, festivals and fairs, and the like.
“I am very fortunate,” he said. “We have a good crew and everybody is helping.”
Bohnyak said this is not the first time that OCSD has stepped up to staff a PD.
About 10 years ago, he said, Bradford had a similar situation, with a chief retiring and the force being “down a couple of patrolmen.”
“So they contracted with us until they figured out what they wanted to do,” Bohnyak said.
The selectboard there opted to maintain its PD. Bohnyak said there are precedents in other counties, including Lamoille, where the sheriff’s department provides services for two towns whose police departments “went away.”
Bohnyak, who is president of the Vermont Sheriff’s Association, said he felt there are definite advantages for a town that turns over policing to the county sheriff.
Running a PD, he said, requires a lot of work “behind the scenes,” including contract and workers’ benefits issues. Contracting out the work frees the selectboard and manager from dealing with these issues, he said.
Any citizen complaints, Bohnyak added, would also go first to the sheriff’s office and not to town officials— unless the sheriff’s department failed to fulfill its role.
Bohnyak’s current four-year term as county sheriff ends this year. He is seeking reëlection and, so far, has no opposition for the seat.
The recent turnover at RPD saw law enforcement experience totaling decades walk out the door:
• Former Chief Dan Brunelle returned to his former employer, the South Burlington PD, after less than one year on the job in Randolph. His last day was May 24.
• Sgt. David Leighton retired at the end of June.
• The department’s other sergeant, Loretta Stalnaker, started a new job last week as chief of police in Royalton.
• Officer Sam Lambert resigned his position, effective July 6, and now works for the Montpelier PD.
-- SANDY VONDRASEK