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Gouverneur village officials want more coordination with state police

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GOUVERNEUR — Village officials are looking for answers to why they were not informed about the state police blanket patrol coverage that took place Wednesday.

Many in the community were alarmed when state police patrols descended on the village, stopping dozens of motorists and writing numerous vehicle and traffic tickets, mostly for minor violations, but without informing village police or St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin M. Wells.

“Certainly there’s concern,” Mayor Ronald P. McDougall said at a village Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday. “We’re not anti-police. We need police protection, there’s no question about that. They should be acting in concert with our village police department. Why that wasn’t done, I’m not sure.”

Police Chief Gordon F. Ayen said he could not speak for the state police.

“They did what they did,” he said. “They didn’t call me.”

Many of the tickets issued, such as for burnt-out license plate lights or obstructed vision because of a GPS unit mounted on a dashboard, seemed petty to village residents.

“Some of those young officers, they must have thought they were a long way from the New York State Academy,” Mr. McDougall said.

Some in the community have speculated that the roving patrol was meant to send a message that state police are weary of answering complaints from village residents when the understaffed village police force has no one on duty, although State Police Capt. Michael J. Girard has said that is untrue.

Trustee Roger A. LaPierre said he was surprised to learn that the state police — apart from last Wednesday’s saturation patrol — have taken on the responsibility of policing village streets during the midnight shift to maintain public safety. When the village cut the budget of the police department several years ago to avoid a large property tax increase, state police were asked if they could pick up the slack but said they were too busy, he said.

“I’m glad they’re here to help,” Mr. LaPierre said. “I still don’t know why they did what they did. The show of force maybe startled some people.”

Whether the state police are tasked or not to maintain order in Gouverneur, they should treat the village police with courtesy, Mr. McDougall said.

“We have a police force,” he said. “It’s stretched, but we have a police force.”

Town Council member Harold E. Lacey, who was at the meeting, said he would rather the state police work on solving major crimes, such as the murder of 12-year-old Garrett J. Phillips in Potsdam, than write a slew of minor tickets in Gouverneur.

“They’ve done this sting under the guise of public safety,” he said. “It makes me feel so much safer.”

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