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Mayor opposes abolishing police, is willing to study merger

Depew Mayor Joseph G. McIntosh said Monday that he is against abolishing the village's Police Department but would support a study on merging the Depew Police Department with police departments in Cheektowaga and Lancaster.

"A great deal of misinformation has been going around regarding the issue of a Depew Police Department merger," McIntosh said in a prepared statement he read at the Village Board meeting.

"The original information was disseminated from the office of the county executive [Joel A. Giambra]. While I won't speculate regarding Mr. Giambra's reasons for this, I can tell you that it created a hullabaloo over nothing," McIntosh added.

The mayor was referring to an informal meeting last month that Giambra had with Lancaster Supervisor Robert H. Giza and Cheektowaga Supervisor Dennis H. Gabryszak, ostensibly to discuss the possibility of merging Depew's Police Department with those in both Lancaster and Cheektowaga and the increased funding to promote such consolidations that is provided in Gov. George E. Pataki's 2006 proposed budget.

McIntosh said he was not at that meeting, nor was he aware of it at the time.

"Had I attended that meeting, it would have been to discuss a study and only a study regarding the viability of a police merger," McIntosh said Monday.

The mayor said a preliminary merger study performed by Kenneth Vetter, then a senior executive with Giambra's office, "was both flawed and biased." McIntosh said he would seek a study that examines both the financial ramifications of a merger and how it might affect public safety. In addition, he said he would prefer the study be done by "an outside, independent group, free from the politics of the county, towns and village."

McIntosh said he is firmly against abolishing the Depew Police Department, which is different from a merger. Abolishing the department would automatically require Lancaster and Cheektowaga to then provide police services to the parts of the village within their boundaries, because Depew is situated within both towns. However, neither Lancaster nor Cheektowaga would be required to absorb any of the personnel in the Depew Police Department under such a scenario.

Irvine G. Reinig of Columbia Avenue, who spoke at Monday's meeting, said a study should also examine what ought to be the appropriate size of the current Police Department, which includes about 30 officers.

"The village will have to work harder to justify the current size of the Police Department," Reinig said.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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