By MORGAN FRISCH
Recorder News Staff
With his “high energy” personality, Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino said he was warned to lower his expectations and try not to do so much or else he wouldn’t be successful in his new position.
“I say you always plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Giardino said.
Almost a year later, he’s accomplished approximately 85 percent of his goals.
” A solid B+, which I think is a pretty good start,” Giardino said.
The former county district attorney and county court judge, said he was fortunate to have such a tremendous staff. He said Undersheriff Brian Phillips is always working on the operations side running the day-to-day patrols. He didn’t forget to mention the administrative employees and captain as well. During his first year, he’s already managed to reinstate the boat patrol, get approval for new employees and generate massive amounts of community support.
Hundreds of donors, some including, Stewart’s Shops, Mayfield Fire Association, Benjamin Moore and Janowski Insurance Agency made it possible to reinstate the boat patrol which will be running on the Great Sacandaga, Canada and Caroga Lake. Giardino made it clear that hundreds of community members needed to be thanked, but it wasn’t possible to list them all.
“So many people have donated to support us and frankly, I don’t think that law enforcement should have to be supported by civilians,” Giardino said. “I think it should be a matter of public safety and government support. I appreciate everybody who stepped up to help us. I appreciate that the board of supervisors has allowed every inactivate that I asked for.”
The Fulton County Board of Supervisors approved three temporary positions in early 2016. A tactical training coordinator, forensic evidence instructor and investigative analyst instructor. All three positions are involved in updating policies and procedures and training. They began in March and will be employed until August. The board of supervisors also approved a new communications position, a new deputy sheriff and investigator. Giardino said adding the deputy would allow the department to put four patrol cars out for the bulk of the day. This would be adding a “swing shift” from noon until midnight. He said this would allow for more coverage in the Western parts of the county such as Oppenheim, Ephratah and Stratford.
Other highlights of 2016:
* SLA Transportation and UNI Warehouse Storage purchased training equipment and tasers for the department together with supporting Child Safe Program and the Yellow Dot Program.
* A New K9 Sadie for the Fulton County Correctional Facility. Several 100 donors helped to support the purchase, equipping and training of two new K-9 teams for 2017.
* A $200,000 State Homeland Security Grant for the 911 system.
* New bulletproof vests were donated.
* A $20,0000 legislative grant from Sen. Hugh Farley will be used for equipment, overtime and part-time deputies.
* Training law enforcement division in active shooter and tactical range in addition to annual qualification.
Giardino said he feels strongly about training. He made efforts to get as much training as the department could afford or as his employees wanted.
“I believe that the public deserves police officers who don’t meet only the minimal requirements, but actually have the maximum training,” he said.
Communication was also a significant accomplishment in 2016. Giardino managed to re-activate the Hyper-Reach program and upgrade the sheriff’s Facebook page. The department previously received a grant for the Hyper-Reach program, but it wasn’t in use. Giardino said it sends messages to everyone who has “a hard line”. It’s been used for major fires, a road that was closed for a fatal accident and the dangerous ice storm last week. The reach allows for an important message to be sent to the public. The Facebook page was also used during the storm, and Giardino’s message regarding staying off the roads had thousands of views and shares.
Despite being short-handed, Giardino said the sheriff’s department has seen a 30 percent or better increase in calls for service, tickets issued and arrests made. For 2017, his plans are training the two new K9s for the road patrol, increasing the marine presence on the lakes and concentrating on drug investigations. He’s also hopeful to start a new initiative for suicide awareness and prevention.
Looking back on the past year, he said there has been a learning curve involved with all the civil service rules and labor laws. He mentioned dealing with personnel and different scenarios such as sick time, discipline, etc.
However, holding two previous community positions have assisted in the transition. While being a district attorney, Giardino said he would take in cases that police made arrests on. During his position as judge, he would review those cases. Now, as sheriff, the previous experiences have helped him focus on the end result. His connections within the community have also benefited the department by networking with other agencies. The Fulton County Sheriff’s Department with be doing training exercises with the Saratoga County Boat Patrol and the Amsterdam Fire and Dive Team. Giardino said previously everyone trained alone, now they will have the opportunity to get to know the people they may work with at an incident.
Giardino is looking forward to 2017, has always liked law enforcement and is hopeful to accomplish the rest of his goals. But like every position, there’s one downside. For him, it’s the tragedies. “When you know so many people like I do, it’s personal,” Giardino said. “You can’t help but take it personal, you want to do as much as you can for anybody, but when you know the people, you want to be sure that they know you did as much as you could.”