Rockland County sheriff's deputies protest proposed cuts

NEW CITY (WABC) -- There is a protest going on in Rockland County over budget cuts, with the sheriff asking the legislature to restore funding and avoid layoffs that he says threatens public safety.

Instead of walking a beat, deputies who could soon be out of jobs were manning an informational picket line. Officials say 37 police officers, some with more than 15 years of service, are facing unemployment.

"It's everything," sheriff's deputy Todd Farmer said. "It's my life, it's my family's life. These are all my friends, my peers that I work with."

Rockland County Executive Ed Day has proposed cutting the entire patrol division. Deputies are on duty around the clock, county-wide, usually in a backup role assisting local police departments. The sheriff's office also maintains specialized units, including K-9, bomb squad and arson investigation.

Even though those would remain, the layoffs are based on seniority and would decimate those divisions. For example, the sergeant in charge of the marine unit, which patrols the area around the Tappan Zee Bridge, would be laid off.

"You can't just take somebody with no experience, hand him a set of keys to a boat and tell him to go patrol the Hudson River," Sergeant John Murphy said. "That would be recipe for disaster."

At issue is a $10 million shortfall. Day, a former NYPD commander, accuses the sheriff's office of mismanagement and says it must learn to do more with less because raising taxes is not an option.

"It would be the worst possible message to send as we start to turn a corner here in Rockland," Day said. "We need to keep the costs to an acceptable level and do it as fair as possible."

But the sheriff argues the cuts threaten public safety and that his department came in $400,000 under budget this year.

"Do I know that there's a financial problem in Rockland County?" Sheriff Louis Falco said. "The answer to that is yes. But the financial problem hasn't been created by the Sheriff's Office. As a matter of fact, we've assisted."

Even if the legislature votes to restore the cuts, the question remains, are there enough votes to override a likely veto by the county executive?
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