TOMPKINS COUNTY N.Y. — A breakdown of call types has been released for the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office unarmed pilot program.

The program began as a goal in the joint Reimagining Public Safety passed by Tompkins County and the City of Ithaca in March. Tompkins County Sheriff Derek Osborne said that the two positions have already been filled and, after training, will be responding to calls starting on July 5th. Osborne added that the two Sheriff’s Clerks will be working under a sergeant “for however long is needed before we put them out completely on their own.”

Once this supervised period is over, there are seven call types that the Clerks will be responding to solely on their own or possibly with a Sheriff’s Deputy. They include accidents between cars and deer, traffic complaints; instances of DMV items, such as license plates or driver’s licenses, being stolen; vacant property check requests; telephone scams and other related forms of fraud; noise complaints; and larceny. The pilot program is slated to last for three years.

Osborne said that when these call types come into the dispatch center, the dispatcher is going to be reviewing the information on the call and deciding whether just a clerk should be responding, or a clerk and a deputy, or perhaps only a deputy.

The Sheriff’s Clerk position is already an existing title in the Sheriff’s Office union contract, and the Sheriff’s Clerks will be at the same pay rate as the office’s Civil Permit Clerks. 

The two positions will be slated to work four ten-hour shifts during the Sheriff Office’s peak call times, lightening the workload for Sheriff’s Deputies to focus on investigations, responding to emergency calls, and build relationships in the community.

Osborne said that he considers the approach a “win-win.”

“We have very limited road patrol resources. Typically we only have three or four deputies on the road at any given time,” said Osborne. “The community is asking for alternate response options. This provides us the best of both worlds.”

Osborne added, “Even if somebody was against any of the Reimagination process, and doesn’t like this idea, it really doesn’t make sense because it’s a win-win for everybody.”

In a released statement, Tompkins County Chief Equity and Diversity Officer Deanna Carrithers added, “[…] I applaud Sheriff Osborne and his team for putting in the work to launch a meaningful program and study outcomes. One of the charges of Reimagining Public Safety is to reduce disproportionate minority contact with police and the criminal justice system, this pilot program is a part of that effort.”

Jimmy Jordan is Senior Reporter for The Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact him at Connect with him on Twitter @jmmy_jrdn