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Letter to the Editor: TAC Force Decision Hurts Volunteers

Written By Editor on 2/20/15 | 2/20/15

At the February 20th meeting of the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors a political train de-railed on the Sheriff’s Tactical & Rescue Force. For those of you who are unfamiliar with who the TAC Force is, they are the people who direct traffic at your parades, keep order at the Grandstand events during the county fair and other festivals around the county and other such law enforcement work needed when there is not enough coverage available through local PD or the regular road patrol deputies. They also provide an extra level of search & rescue personnel for the county. The Force has been an active unit of the sheriff’s office for 45 years, always in uniform similar to that of the road patrol, and always armed. When they were first established in 1970 they were constituted as a special force of the Schoharie County Sheriff’s Department whose purpose is to serve and protect the residents of Schoharie County within our special field when called upon. Members were divided into 2 groups, active and inactive. The active members received a lot of training in law enforcement and firearms certification and were appointed as Special Deputy Sheriffs. The inactive members were persons with special skills such as pilots or divers who were primarily used for search & rescue operations. At some point during the current administrations reign, the county insurance provider was changed. When this happened the TAC Force members were not delineated as being armed members of the sheriff’s department. Last year the provider found out that the Force was armed and told the county supervisors that the Force was not covered for that and that this situation presented a great liability threat to the county. The Force members and Sheriff Desmond were looking for ways to get the Force back under coverage without extending the already overtaxed budget but this has been shut down. At the meeting mentioned above, in an 11 to 2 vote, the Board of Supervisors voted to disarm the TAC Force, take them out of law enforcement like uniforms, and change their name. I was present at this meeting to speak on behalf of the Force and outline the requirements by state law for an armed unit of auxiliary police or special deputy sheriffs for civil defense. I was not allowed to speak before the vote was taken. When Chairman Lape asked if there was any further discussion (there had been none other than the motion and second) I raised my hand, which was highly visible being filled with sheets of paper containing my prepared statement. He looked right at me and said, “There being no further discussion, all those in favor…” and just like that, your group of volunteers, who have provided thousands of dollars’ worth of free law enforcement service to your community in the last 45 years was shut down. Mind you, they will tell you that they did not disband the Force, which is, political rhetoric. They removed our side arms. They removed our powers to arrest. They removed our appearance and representation as law enforcement. They ordered us to change our name. If that is not disbanding, I don’t know what is. And yet, they expect the Force members to continue to provide the exact same services that they have been. We will have no more authority than a volunteer event staff person. What happens now when an unruly bunch starts acting up during a demolition derby? Local PD cannot afford to maintain a large enough presence on the fairgrounds to handle situations like that. The TAC Force is still needed. Let your town supervisor know that you are not pleased with their decision and that you want the TAC Force back as an armed unit of law enforcement in your community. Let them know that if they don’t, maybe the next person you vote for will! Spread the word!

Thank you.
Ted Volkert,
President of the TAC Force
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