Support for the Amherst Police Department and its role in the capture of the alleged Bike Path Killer has led Supervisor Satish B. Mohan to support hiring five new police officers, reversing his longtime opposition to the plan.
But that will not end the legal dispute over who has the power to decide whether to hire new officers.
Mohan said he was motivated in part by the wave of public support for the town's police officers after Monday's arrest of Altemio C. Sanchez. He said he will concede to his opponents on the police jobs issue at a special Town Board meeting Monday.
Despite his turnabout on the hirings, Mohan said he's ready to defend his position that town law gives the supervisor the sole right to hire police officers, subject only to the approval of the Town Board.
Mohan's position is that the hiring provision was part of a new town code that was enacted in a 1976 referendum. And he said, "I will defend the sanctity of the town's code. I will fight until the [State] Court of Appeals rules in favor of the referendum."
The head of the town's police union, Detective Ed Guzdek, said Deputy Supervisor Roy Wixson suggested Tuesday night that a compromise might be possible. But Guzdek said he turned down any suggestion that the union would drop its challenge in exchange for adding the police officers.
"He's protecting a code that we feel does not give him the authority that [he thinks] it does," Guzdek said.
Mohan denied that he was ready to compromise on the issue.
More than a year ago, an earlier Town Board set aside funding for three new police officers to help address crime problems in West Amherst. But after taking office, Mohan announced that the town could not afford to fill the jobs, which he says would cost tens of millions of dollars, counting retirement costs and other benefits.
Town Board members assailed the decision, and the Amherst Police Club, the town's police union, filed suit to force Mohan to fill the three jobs.
In November, State Supreme Court Justice Joseph R. Glownia issued a verbal ruling in favor of the union, but so far the court decision has not been issued in writing, which is required before the ruling takes effect.
Then came Monday's arrest of Sanchez.
"What the police have done in the last few days has endeared them. We love them," Mohan said.
In that spirit, he said he will sign papers to hire the five new officers, including two of the original three candidates.
In the same breath, however, Mohan said he will "fight the case to protect the code of the town."