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Lancaster trustee ruffled over hiring of Rochester police officer

The Lancaster Town Board approved the appointment of a Rochester police officer by a 4-1 vote Tuesday night, but one Council member objected to the potential cost to the town.

Veteran Councilman Ronald Ruffino voted against the resolution because of the reimbursement cost the town may incur in hiring Officer Philip J. Carcaci from another police agency.

"I'm voting no," Ruffino said, looking directly at Carcaci, a Lancaster native, who was seated in the last row of Council chambers. "It's nothing personal. I want you back home, but we’re hiring an officer and all of a sudden we get a fee?"

Carcaci has served 16 months with the Rochester Police Department.

New York State law allows a municipality to seek reimbursement for expenses incurred in training a police officer if that officer has less than three years on duty, and he is hired by another municipality. It also allows the municipality to seek reimbursement for a portion of the salary it paid to the officer.

"That's the cost of doing business, and the benefit of bringing in an officer fully trained," said Johanna M. Coleman, Lancaster supervisor. "We don't even know if [Rochester] will request a reimbursement. The law is something the police chief pointed out to the board. In the past 30 years, I am not aware if the town has ever had a municipality seeking reimbursement from the Town of Lancaster."

The reimbursement for six months of police academy training at the Erie County Law Enforcement Training Academy approaches $45,000, according to Coleman.

Baldwinsville Police Department Chief Michael Lefancheck is president of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police. Lefancheck called the legal provision allowing the reimbursement "a struggle."

"I'm aware of officers being hired with less than three years on, and the municipalities they left did not seek compensation. On the flip side municipalities have demanded payment for their training expenses. This statute does not go unused. It has been a struggle for us, and we have looked at it statewide. I think the councilman's concern is a valid one," Lefancheck said.

Lancaster Police Chief Gerald J. Gill Jr. does not see the reimbursement as a problem.

"We'd have to pay salary and costs if we had trained him at our academy," Gill said. "I don't really see what the issue is. It's state municipal law that governs this. Mr. Carcaci expressed a desire to work in his hometown and scored competitively in the exam in order for us to consider his candidacy."

Ruffino said he suggested an officer who worked for the Depew Police Department to fill the vacancy on the 49-man roster.

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